What domestic abuse victims need from the church

Matthew 22: 36-40, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I was born into an abusive home. My father was a drunk and when drunk, he was violent. In the aftermath of our successfully escaping from him, my mother, unable to deal with all she’d been through, became an emotional abuser herself. I married into a family where emotional abuse and manipulation was the norm. I know abuse firsthand. I can testify as to the depths of its pain; moreover, I can testify, as an abuse survivor, to the overall failure of the church when it comes to understanding abuse or handling well those who have suffered abuse.

Statistics say that one out of four women experience domestic abuse of some form in their lifetime. Men are victims of domestic abuse far more than most people realize. When those who have suffered are members of the Lord’s church, God’s people have an obligation to help them. When, for whatever reason, we shy away from this obligation, either through ignorance or willful refusal to get involved, we lay waste to the Gospel we claim to believe. Christians are called to defend the oppressed yet when domestic violence is involved so few do.

What abuse victims need from their fellow Christians is pretty simple and straightforward. We need you to be Jesus to us. Christians are called to be His representative and “love your neighbor as yourself.” To fail in this is to fail in serving Christ.

Some Christians do care and want to help but have no idea where to begin. Domestic violence is terrifying and unnerving for the family involved and for those who are trying to help. But victims of abuse still need help. If God has put them in your path, perhaps He’s calling you to be His hands to them. Don’t know where to start? Here’s some things that Christian victims of domestic abuse need from their fellow believers:

The Pure Gospel
The church long ago got away from the pure gospel. We water it down, mix it up and serve it with a side of fun. No wonder it doesn’t save. It can’t save. It’s poison. We need preachers who are dedicated to the truth of God’s Word who are willing to stand up and preach that truth without changing it one iota. It is useless to save someone from a hellish life here only to help them find their spot in hell in eternity.

For someone to listen to her
If a woman came to you and confided to you that her husband was abusing her, would you listen? Most of us are uncomfortable when it comes to hearing such things but listening is actually the first step towards helping abuse victims. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward and say, “I’m being abused.” If someone comes to you with a story of abuse, sit down with her and listen. Ask her questions. Believe her. She has far more to lose from confiding in you than most could imagine. Yes, some people lie about being abused and you have to be aware of that but remember it’s not the norm; far more women lie about not being abused when they are being abused because they are afraid of their abusers. So listen.

Someone to pray for her
After listening to her, pray with her. Pray specifically for her needs. Then continue to pray for her and let her know you are praying. Put feet to your prayers. Do what you can to meet her needs for often we are the answer to our own prayers.

Someone to care and to help
Do you know what keeps a lot of abused women and children with their abusers? The lack of money to leave. If a woman is trying to get herself and her children to safety, don’t spend time telling her why she’s wrong, what you think about her decision, or trying to talk her out of it. She knows what it’s like to live in abuse and you don’t. Do what you can to help her. Offer her a room to stay for a while, help her find a job or find a way to work from home, help her with her children, offer the use of a car and so on. Even if she stays with her abuser, chances are great that she and her children need something or maybe a lot of things. Financial abuse often accompanies other types of abuse. Instead of lecturing, get busy serving and help them.

An advocate
Leaving an abuser is dangerous. Staying in an abusive marriage is also dangerous.An abused wife needs an advocate, someone who will stand up for her, help her find the help she needs, help her to navigate the legal system should she choose to leave.

Someone to point her in the right direction
You are in a fog when you live in abuse. It’s difficult to get through the day let alone make all of the decisions you have to make. You’re constantly afraid and don’t know who to turn to or even who you can trust. If you have children, it’s even worse. There’s nothing–nothing at all–more painful for a mother than to watch, hear, or see your children being hurt–be it physical or not–and being unable to do anything to stop it. You aren’t sure who will believe you, or who will be willing to get involved. So many aren’t. Remember this and get involved. If she turns to you, do what you can to help her to make good decisions.

Someone who will let her make her own decisions while offering guidance as needed
With all that said, it’s also important to let the victim learn to make their own decisions. She must move from victim to survivor and learn to discern truth from lie. She has to learn to trust again and that includes trusting in herself. She’s been lied to by her abuser, told she was worthless, that her opinions didn’t matter. You know what? After hearing it over and over, she started to believe it. She’s been told she can’t do anything and she feels helpless. Help her to grow and learn to believe in herself. Help her learn to discern truth from lie. Help her to find the information she desperately needs and offer your guidance when asked for it but, through it all, help her see the importance of making decisions about her life herself.

Abuse victims have suffered much from their abuser. Don’t add to that hurt by seeing and refusing to help. Get involved. Do something. Anything. Just be determined to honor God through your efforts and He’ll give you the opportunity to serve and to glorify Him as you do.

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