Women who have suffered from domestic abuse may demonstrate a number of behaviors, harbor a number of beliefs, suffer from shame or false guilt, or feel completely overwhelmed and not know what to do next. They might feel very much alone–or, in actuality, be very much alone. We, as the body of Christ, need to be aware of what domestic abuse is, what abuse victims might be facing, feeling, or thinking and what obstacles may be in their path. The abuse victim may or may not realize that she is being abused. She may or may not believe that she can escape from the abuse or that she even has a right to (personally or biblically). It is only when we understand what abuse is, what she is facing in trying to decide whether to leave or to stay with her abuser, the evils her abuser has wrought in her life and the lives of her children, and how hard it is to overcome abuse, that we can offer the help that she so desperately needs.
It is only then that we can function as the hands of Jesus in an abused woman’s life.
- She might have dealt daily with her abuser’s lies and now doesn’t know what to believe or even who to believe.
- She may doubt herself, might even question whether the abuse was real (even when there might be overwhelming evidence to prove it was).
- She may fear that no one will believe her if she tells the truth about what horrors she has been living through.
- She may fear that telling anyone about the abuse will cause her to face further abuse.
- If she has children, she is terrified about what the abuse they’ve either seen or endured has done to them. She will also be worried about what might happen to them if she leaves–how her abuser might use them against her, how he might seek to turn them against her, whether he might try to take them from her, what might happen to them if she ends up homeless, how divorce might affect them, etc.
- She may want the abuse to end while not wanting her marriage to end.
- She may feel isolated due to the stigma attached to domestic abuse.
- She may have actually been isolated by her abuser and not have anyone to turn to.
- She might be suffering from depression, PTSD, or anxiety attacks.
- She might feel helpless.
- She may be unaware of services available to help her.
- She may be embarrassed by being labeled as an “abuse victim”.
- She might fear what others might think or say about her (for staying in the abuse, for being abused, for leaving, etc.).
- She might feel the need to deny or minimize the abuse.
- She might feel that she has to make excuses for her abuser.
- She might believe that her abuser really does love her and wants to change.
- She might be financially dependent on her abuser and believe she cannot afford to leave him.
- She may feel ashamed or suffer from false guilt.
- She may have fallen into addictive behaviors in order to deal with her pain. Such behaviors could include drug or alcohol addictions but can also include less obvious addictions such as overeating, shopping, or over-indulging in television, music or reading as a means of escaping the pain.
- She might believe that if she holds out long enough her abuser will change and true repentance will take place.
- She might believe that, by enduring abuse, she is sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
- She might believe that “a good wife wouldn’t leave” her abuser.
- She might believe that she will be sinning if she separates or divorces from her abuser.
- She might believe that God will be angry with her if she divorces her abuser.
- She might believe that the abuse she has been enduring is a sign that God is angry at her.
- She may have read harmful marriage books such as Me? Obey Him? The Obedient Wife and God’s Way of Happiness and Blessing in the Home by Elizabeth Rice Handford or Created to be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl and believe that, in order to be pleasing to God, she can never say “no” to her husband or leave her husband–no matter what evil he demands of her.
- She may believe that the church or her family is against her leaving her abuser and that, if she leaves, she will lose their support.
- She may have been told that “good Christians” don’t get divorced because “God hates divorce”.
- She may feel alone, as if nobody cares.
- She may believe that her abuser will harm or kill her, her children, or himself should she try to leave him.
The lies of abuse can best be countered by the glorious truth of the Gospel of Christ. When the pure truth of God’s Word is preached and believed, when it is lived out as it ought to be, God’s people are enabled to become the mouth, ears, hands and feet of Christ. They are then enabled to love one another, including the poor, the oppressed, the abused, and those from broken sinful backgrounds, with the love Christ Himself commanded us to have. May we all strive to become that kind of people–for the glory of our dear Savior.
Soli Deo gloria!