Blog

The most powerful agent for hope, healing and justice for abuse survivors in the church is something both simple and surprisingly elusive: people of compassion.

April 12, 2016 4 0 comments
Blog

Too often I hear from women who are hurting because of something that happened to them within the church family. Dare I hope that this can change?  

April 5, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

This bulletin insert includes a general definition of child abuse and a brief list of the common signs of child abuse.

March 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

In her recent book Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, Ruth Tucker offers a compelling and harrowing account of the ways in which unchallenged assumptions about gender hierarchy can create a climate of enabling abuse within the church.

March 15, 2016 4 2 comments
Blog

What do you think of when you think of an act of courage? This article explores the necessary courage to leave an emotionally abusive marriage.

March 1, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

This bulletin insert for Safe Church Ministry includes a description of how abuse victims and offenders can experience justice and mercy, which can lead to healing.

February 23, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

When is it the right decision to leave an abusive marriage? This anonymous author shares her painful journey of wrestling with the decision to leave an emotionally abusive marriage.

February 23, 2016 2 8 comments
Blog

The “Cosby effect” is a sober reminder to churches to do whatever possible in their power to make it very clear to their congregations that they desire abuse to be reported.

February 10, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Fully confronting abuse by spiritual leaders in the CRC  is a necessary first step to a safe church: if we cannot hold accountable even those entrusted with the souls of the church, called to be “blameless” how can we effectively address other forms of abuse?

January 28, 2016 3 4 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

This booklet answers your questions about emotional abuse, including what the Bible says about it and how a church can respond. 

January 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource

Find resources related to elder abuse. 

January 23, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

The film Spotlight reminds the church it will take the committed effort and support of an entire community to both support abuse survivors and prevent abuse. 

January 12, 2016 3 15 comments
Resource, Curriculum

We can begin to prevent abuse by starting at an early age to teach our children respect for themselves and for one another; and by helping them learn what to do in situations that feel unsafe. 

January 8, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

These educational resources will help you begin talking with young adults about healthy sexuality. 

January 6, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

As Christians, waiting is our posture before God. God uses our waiting to transform us into his likeness. How do we persevere in hope as we wait?

January 5, 2016 3 3 comments
Blog

Too often we talk about Christmas with the assumptions of privilege, leaving people who are not in an emotionally or financially stable situation feeling ashamed and isolated. 

December 22, 2015 1 0 comments
Blog

Every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. These women are our best friends, co-workers, and the lady in front of you at the checkout line at Target. How could I not speak up? 

December 15, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Sermon or Message

An examination of Psalm 10 from the context of Safe Church Ministry by Rev. Colin Vander Ploeg.

December 3, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

What does Christmas mean to abuse survivors? And how can we celebrate the joy of Christmas as a community in light of the suffering of our world?

December 1, 2015 5 3 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Safe Church Bulletin Inserts / Flyers on various topics can be found here at Faith Alive Resources.

November 23, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In both secular and Christian cultures, the basic right to say no at any time confuses people. A recent video comparing consent to offering someone a cup of tea shows it's not that complicated.

November 17, 2015 3 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar examines how sexual abuse happens, what some of the impacts are, and then explores how churches can play a key role in ending this epidemic in our culture. 

November 11, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

One of the most pressing issues today for the churches credibility is its naivete when it comes to abusers. But what strengths does the church have to fight such naivete? 

October 27, 2015 5 4 comments
Blog

Safe Church says a fond farewell, with prayers and best wishes, to Robin. And we say a warm welcome to Monica, our new Safe Church Network Guide.

October 22, 2015 4 2 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

A bulletin insert that reveals the dangers and destruction of pornography. 

October 17, 2015 0 0 comments

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Hi Edward!

Thanks for interacting here. 

I know many people who, like you, feel Donald Trump is the lesser of two evils in this election. Obviously my blog makes it clear my assessment of his character, but I understand Christians have freedom to disagree about this. And I too have concerns about Ms. Clinton. (I may vote 3rd party this election.) Ultimately, my goal here is to highlight how shocking the words and attitudes toward women have been in this election and help readers understand how painful his words and treatment of women are. Even if we cannot agree on his politics, I would urge for more concern and compassion for how his behavior and words about women affect women, and at least more understanding for why many women will not vote for Trump. I would like leaders to understand why a lot of women, like myself, are in pain because of how regularly he demeans women. The tape just confirmed for many of us what we suspected. Obviously, I am not God and cannot ultimately determine whether his life has or has not changed since that tape by God's power, but the track record of his comments in this election alone has given me sufficient reason for doubts. Indeed, when asked about his faith, Donald Trump said he does not need to ask God for forgiveness, which seems pretty fundamental. 

In regards to "crude statements," -- the issue here isn't the crudeness of the language, but bragging that power and fame allows you to not wait for consent, allows you to assault. That is unusual, even for "locker room talk." I'm aware that men brag about sexual conquests; I believe significantly fewer of them brag about assault. 

In regards to our forgiveness of Trump: I'm not sure that's relevant here. Donald Trump has not asked me for forgiveness, and has not personally wronged me. I don't feel I need to forgive him any more than I need to forgive Hillary Clinton (who also professes to be a Christian) for her poor decisions regarding email servers. It is up to his alleged victims to forgive him for misconduct, and up to voters to decide whether his character is trustworthy enough for the highest position in our country. What we are highlighting here is a troubling pattern of misogyny, and our culture's seeming willingness to not take that seriously. Vote where your conscience leads you, but I'd also urge an openness to the wounds his words and behavior have opened for many women, as Bonnie's comment and link highlight. 

 

 

Hi Monica

I doubt the ability of anyone to differentiate between an “apology” and a “sincere apology”. There is only one who can make that judgement. Something I do not see is the word “forgive”. If anything is evidence of faith in Christ, it is the ability to forgive, not just once, but seventy times seven.

 

Yes, Trump made crass remarks when he was a Democrat, just like Bill Clinton. But since he was “converted” he has apologized and I for one can forgive him. He has promised to clean up the ghettos, end the massacre of Christians and improve the economic conditions in this country. He has pledged to root out corruption in both the Democratic and Republican establishments. He may not be the first choice for Sunday school teacher, but he certainly has his heart in the right place.

 

On the other hand, we have a candidate who has reveled in an avalanche of corruption, lies and destruction that makes Tammany Hall look like child’s play. Someone who is dedicated to killing babies, undermining our constitution and using the office for personal enrichment without any thought about who or what gets destroyed in the process.

 

Even more appalling is the public stance of our denominational leaders in support of this corruption. We have lurched so far to the left that most Republicans have left or are leaving. We got rid of about a third of our conservative members about 15 years ago. Since then we continue to work to drive the remainder out. Evangelism has become a sham. We have hung a shingle over the door that only Democrats need apply. We need to convert potential members from Republicans to Democrats before they make profession of faith. Otherwise, there can be no communion of the saints.

 

As a denomination, we are guilty of bigotry, discrimination and racism, not in terms of ethnicity, but in our treatment of fellow Christians who are Republicans. Our leaders disparage them every chance they get. After more than seventy years in the CRC, I find myself praying for the early demise of our denomination so that individual churches can work at the much greater tasks that Christians have in common – that of building the Kingdom.

If you'd like to hear the stories of two courageous women, who have suffered gender-related violence, please attend an event sponsored by Safe Church Ministry and the Calvin College Sexuality Series on Nov 4th 7-9 pm at the Chapel at Calvin College. More details are available on the link below. The event may also be seen and heard by video live or after the event using this link. We gain understanding as we listen to others; it's such an important first step.

A Conversation: A Church Response to Interpersonal Violence featuring Ruth Tucker and Ruth Everhart; both have written memoirs about their experience.

One of the things that makes America great is that we have religious freedom, not only for Christians, but for all religions. Another thing that makes America great are the freedoms that we have, freedom to disagree, as we've seen in these many responses. And we are greatest when the freedoms we share as Americans are extended to each and every person, equal rights for all people. The concern expressed in this article is the degradation of women in our culture. This is more than locker room talk, and it extends far beyond Donald Trump - his comments only served to bring to light something that was already very present in our culture. Women are not treated as equals, as people created in the image of God, and in our Christian communities as fellow-heirs with Christ. Safe Church Ministry's concern is abuse. This devaluing of women, or indeed the devaluing of any person or people group, can often serve as a backdrop or provide a context for abuse. The first step, which can lead to abuse, is seeing the other person as "less than". The results of  being considered "less than" are cumulative, and so harmful to women and others who experience that. And the effects of abuse can be devastating to individuals and communities. That's why this is so important. We would like to continue this conversation - but it would be most helpful if we could take it beyond this election (as important as this election is) and focus on the theme of how women are valued and treated in our culture. 

One person I know, as a result of the publicity surrounding Trump's comments, posted on Facebook several painful incidents that she's experienced, simply because she is a woman. It led to an outpouring of support, and other stories. She's not alone. What can we do to make sure that as Christ followers, we reflect his love and value to ALL people? How can we bring healing to those who have experienced the deep pain and humiliation of abuse?

Again, let's continue the conversation - but let's move it beyond this one election to our present culture that has produced it.

Hi Joe,

Trump has not taken real responsibility for those words or behavior. "I apologize,  but this was locker room talk" is not a sincere apology. I also see little to no evidence of faith in Christ. He continues to mock, belittle,  and lie, and rarely if ever apologizes for cruel comments. He has since mocked the appearance of one of the women accusing him. Jesus said we guage true belief by behavior. I do not see any evidence of following Christ in his behavior. His comments on that tape, made as a married I believe close to 60 yr old man, are completely consistent with how he's talked about women throughout this campaign. 

This post wasn't about Hillary,  it was about taking these words and his many other comments about women seriously. Even if that means there's no candidate you can support.  

 

 

 

 

 

  The first thing that struck me is that there is no mention of Trump's apology for what he said 11 years ago. And there is no mention that  that being born again Trump is nevertheless guiltless and perfect in the sight of God who remembers his sins no more. And neither should we. We are one body in Christ.  I'd rather have Trump  with all his faults who promises to protect all Americans from radical Islamic terrorists and put a stop to the crucifixions and beheadings of Christians by ISIS, than Hillary Clinton's same sex relations and pro-choice agenda.     

I especially appreciate the opening comment from the article you link: "As a black Christian in an urban environment, I consciously struggle to give my allegiance to either political party. In this way, this election gives many white evangelicals a sense of what it’s like to be a black believer in America today."

Thanks for providing that link, Jane! Yes, there's a deep need for such a movement of coming together towards a more holistic ethic of life. 

Sho Baraka, Christian rap artist, writes an excellent article in Christian Today titled Why I Can't Vote for Either Trump or Clinton (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/october/sho-baraka-why-i-cant-v...). He comments that As an African American, I’m marginalized by the lack of compassion on the Right. As a Christian, I’m ostracized by the secularism of the Left.

Mr. Baraka clearly articulates a biblical perspective when he states that he wishes that soon there will be a movement of folks who protest both police brutality and abortions without feeling disloyal to one party or the other. These Christians comprehend an unabridged concept of life, that it is to be protected from the cradle to the grave. This is a comprehensive outlook that seeks justice in community development, education, prison reform, and job creation. These people recognize honoring humanity is a service to God and not a partisan policy.

God is in control. I pray that we have the faith and strength to live this out everyday and especially in the voting booth.

I have many feminist friends who don't like Hillary because she stayed with Bill. Was she weak? Or was she strong? She chose to faithfully stay with Bill, despite his unfaithfulness. And she lived through it all in front of the public eye. I can't imagine being in that position, or how I might respond. Marriage is for better and for worse, right? What does her faithfulness to Bill say about her character? How does that compare to her opponent and his faithfulness? These are the two we have; one will become president of the United States. Bringing others into the conversation is a distraction, a smokescreen. The choice before us stands.

A sanctity of life ethic must extend beyond the womb as well as inside it. I'm a member of an organization called Feminists For Life. They show a consistent sanctity of life ethic focusing on the underlying issues that cause so many women to choose abortion. Some of those issues are poverty, health care, education, child care, etc. Consider the issues of healthcare (how many people die of preventable diseases?) or immigration (how precarious life is for displaced people) - then which party better reflects a sanctity of life ethic? It's not as simplistic, or black and white as we make it out to be. And we can't have meaningful conversations about these important issues if we're not willing to look deeper and see the much bigger and more complicated picture behind the sound bites.

Thanks for your thoughts, Ken! I agree that we need to be sober, fair, and consistent in our evaluation of candidates. 

There has been some history of occupants of the White House disrespecting women. Pres. Clinton claimed, "I did not have sex with that woman!", but most of us would consider what he did with Ms. Lewinsky to be "having sex", and it certainly was an example of using one's position of power to take advantage of a subordinate. He ruined Ms. Lewinsky's life and there is evidence beyond mere gossip that he has a history of sexual predation, and it is puzzling that Mrs. Clinton is so selective regarding which abused women she stands with.

I find it astonishing, also, that the Obamas are selective with respect to whose language they object to. The language in the Trump video was mild compared to the language used by rappers and hip-hop artists who have been guest entertainers in the White House and thus have been given the presidential seal of approval. Mrs. Obama reportedly even cited Beyonce as a suitable role model for their daughters.

Bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of who engages in it and equally deplorable whether it involves one's friends or enemies. In an election year, it would behoove us to look hard at all candidates with the same criteria. I suggest that we judge our favorite candidates with the same standard with which we judge their opponents. There is reason to be embarrassed and ashamed about both major candidates for president this year, and I'm not sure whether some of us are actually blind to the disgusting and disturbing history of our favorite candidate or if we are just trying to divert attention away from our favorite candidate by pointing out how bad the opponent is.

Some believe that whichever candidate wins the country loses. They hope that,  whichever it is, Congress will be in control of the other party so that there will be four years of gridlock and not too much damage will be done before a more honest and sensible president will be elected in four years. God help us!

Thanks for your thoughts, Nancy! I certainly think it is an ethical choice to abstain from voting due to pro-life positions, and this isn't a post promoting Hillary's candidacy. Whether a Trump ticket would actually solve the problem of abortion is debatable, but "ends justify the means" logic inherent in supporting someone who demeans so many people groups and is likely to oppress them as president I don't find compelling. I am simply asking for Christians to abstain from publicly endorsing this particular candidate or at the very minimum being stronger in their condemnation of his consistent behavior and attitudes about women. You may find Prof. Tuininga's article (linked in the article) helpful as a perspective on why being pro-life isn't a good enough reason to support Trump. Even if at the end of the day we disagree about the ethics of a Trump vote, I hope our Christians leaders can be more honest in their assessment of the moral character Trump's words and actions demonstrate. 

I agree that we stand up for women.  But in my opinion, this should be done by voting for the platform that will agree to fight abortion.  If we are truly interested in protecting women, it should start with the unborn and the mothers that feel they have no other choice.  I cannot vote for a platform that encourages abortion through the entire length of the pregnancy.

 

Nancy

 

Well put, Bonnie! Thank you. 

Yes! Let's stand together against the degradation of women, who are created in the image of God. I agree that when evangelicals are silent about this issue, we lose credibility and don't rightly reflect our Lord, who honored women during his life on earth. We are called to look like Jesus, to be his body in the world. No candidate will ever embody Christ, none of us can. However, we must not give up kingdom values to pursue political power. Jesus never sought political power, that is not his way. The Gospel of Christianity suffers as it becomes tied to political power (from Constantine to the present). The Christian right has led us down this path of pursuing power for far too long, and our faith and witness has suffered for it. Now may be a good opportunity to break away from the unholy tie to political power, for the sake of the honor of our Lord and Savior. Hallowed be his name.

Thanks Monica for a very thoughtful article about a very important topic!

Thank you for your comment Joy. This is the piece that is so often misunderstood or neglected. We have just added resources to our website around church leader abuse - and we hope to be able to offer a "study guide" for church councils that will go along with the report and the changes to Church Order. Not sure when that will happen yet; patience is a virtue :)

Thanks again.

Bonnie,

I am grateful for the role you and your staff played in spotlighting "power" as the key component of abuse.  

This proposed change to article 83 (see below) should have a significant impact on how we all identify abuse in our churches and relationships. Through this work, you will continue to have a significant impact on shifting the culture of the CRCNA if churches have the courage to address the imbalances of power that lead to abuse. 

"One of the key dynamics in considering abuse of office is the imbalance and misuse of power.  The power inherent in the role of officebearers represents a sacred trust and must not be misused."  

 

Thank you so much Geri, you just made my day.

And we couldn't do our training in the local churches with out YOU! Thank you for your webinars and posts about Safe Church! I recently used some of your resources for an on-line training form for our volunteers. I'll send it to you to check out. If you have any suggestions to make it better, I welcome your thoughts!

Thank you for your question - so glad you are being proactive in asking it and in creating a safe place where faith and worship can flourish and grow. An environment where everyone feels valued and safe provides the best context for faith formation. 

Safe Church Ministry offers many resources on its website for equipping congregations in abuse awareness, prevention, and response. If you click on the left hand side bar where it says 'Creating a Safe Church Policy' you will find resources specifically related to that. In addition, you may contact the Safe Church Ministry Office, we may be able to connect you with a local safe church team member who can help. Please don't hesitate to call or send us an email. And your church insurance provider may also be a good source of information regarding policy.

Thanks for asking! Blessings to you.

Thanks Bonnie! 

The letter from Steve Timmermans to councils and classes can now be found on the Safe Church website along with lots of other resources. Please feel free to contact your local safe church team member or the Safe Church Ministry office for more information.

Thanks for this excellent article Monica, and also for the wise words from Dr. Gibson! May we, as the church, heed these words as we increasingly learn to walk alongside those who have experienced trauma. 

Thanks for the link to information for new laws in Ontario that apply to churches. We need everyone's help to get the word out. Sexual harassment has serious impacts and needs to be taken seriously. As difficult as it might be to address, we cannot be the kind of community that God is calling us to be as long as such behavior is allowed to continue. Thanks for this excellent post and for bringing this important issue to light.

Thank you so much - both for your support in sharing regarding your ordeal and providing that important information.

Thank you for posting this reflection Monica. My heart goes out to the writer and for the courage it took to share her story. I was subject to similar harassment when I first started working full time in my early 20's - by other employees. I never did anything about it, as I was young and didn't know how to address it. In Ontario the government has addressed this issue this year and is now legislating employers (including churches) to investigate incidents or complaints of harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers will need to build on their written harassment program (Safe Church) and instruct workers (including volunteers) on the program. Employers need to comply with these new requirements as of September 8, 2016 and Christian Reformed Churches in Ontario are being encouraged to include this legislation in their Safe Church policies. For those living in Ontario, here is a link to that information.

Dear Anonymous Child of God: You are courageous for taking the steps you did to survive your horrible experience. You are also courageous for telling your story.Your advice to others experiencing sexual harassment is important to share. And thank you for encouraging churches and ministries to be proactive. Grace and peace to you.

Bonnie, God's sustaining blessing and care to you and those around you who continue to lead us in this vital ministry of being Safe Churches. 

Thanks. This truly is on all of us. We must no longer deny this issue that affects so many among us. May more people have the courage to share their stories, to help those who have not experienced it to understand. And may this lead to a better response and more healing, both in and outside the church.

Hi Jill,

Thanks for your comments. Regarding spiritual abuse - yes, that's worth adding, and I will go ahead and make that edit - I think I pictured spiritual abuse as a related to emotional abuse, but it's also a distinct category. I'm sure there are other forms of abuse I could've mentioned as well.

 I absolutely agree sexism is a huge element of why women are more likely to be victims of abuse, and the church hierarchy does contribute to not equally valuing women's perspectives. For example, if it is natural and biblical for a man's perspective to subsume (be the head over) women's perspective, it becomes quite difficult to untangle when "headship" becomes emotional/spiritual abuse. You might be interested in the review I wrote recently of Ruth Tucker's new book which explores that. The difficult place we're in where the CRC presently recognizes both views as biblically sound shouldn't prevent us from emphasizing the serious dangers involved with a hierarchal view of gender in relation to abuse and the difficulty of fully respecting women while also disbelieving their calling to church office.

Thank-you for writing this Monica.
In your first sentence you talk about a
"culture accustomed to constantly rationalize and justify abuse of power, be it physical, emotional, or sexual". 
maybe you should add spiritual abuse to this list?

Is it a stretch I wonder to say that if a congregation does not permit women  in office, this contributes to continued tolerance of sexism or normalizing of inappropriate behavior?

I am told by some men that I contribute greatly to the congregation. They have respect for me, but no, women cannot be in office. There are other men who do not appear to value me at all, though they are patronizingly kind.

Both of the above lead to me feeling 'less than'.
If we, as women, have less value then does that make it seem to us  to be okay to be abused?
If woman have less value than men then does that give men 'a right' to abuse us. Or to belittle us when we report, or ignore it as not important?

 

 "We all must acknowledge that we were all made in God's image and are loved by Him, and therefore must relate to each other as we would our God" - really well said. Thanks, Elly. 

Rationalization of abuse is one of the most difficult situations to deal with.  "He/she has their own problems that led to it", "He/she didn't know any better", "The victim sort of asked for it/invited it", "If such-and-such hadn't happened the abuse wouldn't have happened".  The excuses (another word for rationalizations) go on and on.  However, we must all take responsibility for the decisions we make and our actions.  Bullying would stop if we taught our children to treat all others with kindness and respect (like they would want to be treated), so they can make the right decisions as well.  We all must acknowledge that we were all made in God's image and are loved by Him, and therefore must relate to each other as we would our God.

As members of a Christian church we have a huge role to play.  First of all, we need to set the example of how to relate to each other with kindness, respect and dignity.  Secondly, we need to educate on what constitutes abuse, how to recognize it, and more importantly, how to prevent it from occurring in the first place.  Thirdly, we need to address it head on if it occurs in our communities.  Finally, we need to be there to assist victims to heal from the trauma and pain of abuse.  Can we be that for each other?  That's the challenge.

We can never know the transforming, healing power of our Lord, if we will not acknowledge our own deep woundedness. 

 

Thank you, Monica, for another really thoughtful piece on cultivating a church culture of grace. We can be so dismissive of each other's pain at times, that we fail to reflect the fact that we are part of God's Kingdom. So often people walk away from the Church because of what we didn't do, namely, having the courage to stand up for and protect each other, but that is where we find the abundant life in Christ that you write about--when we are Christ to each other. Well said.

Thanks Monica for this very thoughtful post! Forgiveness is so difficult. I like the idea that both forgiveness and repentance are a journey and must not be taken lightly.  Serious sin has serious impacts, and it then makes sense that there would be serious consequences. I resonate deeply with your call for increased accountability. For the sake  of Christ and his Church, may we move in the direction of taking the sin of abuse seriously enough to hold those who abuse accountable. 

Thank you for your response and for connecting with Safe Church Ministry on The Network. I appreciate your comments,  and share your wish that more people would read and respond to the often excellent articles that are posted on The Network.  Thanks again.

I appreciate you writing about Ruth Tuckers  book.
In my congregation women are not permitted to be in 'office'.
I have had 2 conversations about this with elders recently. One elder had been in council in another church where women were equal members and he much prefers that.
The second elder is adamant about women not being in office but he still has a high respect for me and encouraged me to speak out to council on issues that I know about. He says that he pushes other elders and deacons to value the women in our church community. This man has asked me for help in the past...
I told him that I know which men  value me and which ones do not. The second group there is no point in talking to.

What bothers me about this article is that it has been here for 10 days and I am the first one to comment.
There is a very small group that comment on any issue under 'safe church'
So not matter how good the writing most of the CRC never reads it.
As I have said before, I am banging my head on a brick wall     -and it hurts.
 

Faith Trust Institute has recently come out with a multi-faith discussion guide related to the movie Spotlight. You can find it here. A free webinar on the movie, also hosted by Faith Trust will take place in April "Join us for a roundtable conversation about the movie and how it illustrates the issues of institutional and personal responsibility for preventing and responding to child abuse." Presenters: Mary Dispenza, SNAP and Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune - See more at: http://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/training/upcoming-webinars#sthash.Hr2...

 You're right. It is a complex issue,and I didn't mean to blame her for being abused.  Dr.Phil often says that abusers are predators who intuitively know how to spot a potential victim rather than the victim unconsciously attracting their abuser, and they latch onto the hapless woman--since most of the time the victim is a woman--and makes it very hard if not almost impossible for her to get out alive.  When I lived in Sherbrooke, Québec, I got to know a former victim of domestic violence, and she did not dare to appear on photos that could be published outside the province since her ex-husband had threatened to kill her if he found out where she lived.  She got out alive, but her safety depended on his ignorance of her whereabouts.

Thanks for your insightful comments.

Ms. Gyselinck: Thank you for your insightful comments. The bravery of Anonymous to "chose the lesser of the two evils" and break free of an abusive relationship is awe-inspiring. The support of her father is compassionate and Christ-like and an example to be followed.

While I agree that there may have been warning signs during the dating period, pointing out that the victim did not see or should have seen those signs is non-productive and may be inaccurate. It is very important that all of us trying to support victims of domestic violence avoid a very common pitfall that is blaming the victim. Elaine Weiss, Ed.D in her powerful book Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence makes this enlightening observation: she often hears the question "why don’t these women just leave?" when she feels the more pertinent question is "why don’t these abusers just stop?" The first question is yet another example of blaming the victim.

While each victim's story is unique, all victims need to know:

1. the violence is not her fault;

2. she deserves to be safe, loved, respected and cared for;

3. she is made in the image of God and belong to Him alone;

4. she has rights too.

Domestic violence is intensely complex, and ending domestic violence is an ongoing movement that must involve the support of family, friends, the church, and the entire community.

Book citation: Weiss, Ed.D, Elaine. Family and Friends’ Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk, and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused. N.p.: Volcano Press, 2003. Print.

Thanks, Shannon - "pulling out the knife" - that's a painful but accurate image of the kind of healing required here. I really appreciate your compassionate perspective.

This is really beautiful, and bravely written. Thank you for sharing. When I was in Seminary, we were taught that divorce is "the murder of a marriage". I believe that when one spouse abuses the other, they have already "murdered the marriage" by failing to fulfill their vows. In cases of emotional and physical abuse, where the one who abuses will not change the that way God (and the Church) asks, filing for divorce is more about "pulling out the knife" so that the wounds can begin to heal. 

It's true that abuse in a relationship does tend to escalate rather than diminish; and that is also something that needs to be considered in a decision about leaving. And it's true that there may be warning signs, recognizing those is important - Safe Church Ministry has resources that can help here. When I worked leading support groups in a local domestic violence shelter I learned a lot about how this story plays out. Though each woman's story is unique, there are some themes that emerge in story after story. One theme is how wonderful the man was when they first met, he did beautiful things, swept her off her feet, and treated her very well. There are real and strong feelings of love there. The abuse begins and escalates very, very gradually only after the "hook" is in deep. And as humans, we are always hopeful. When someone says he's sorry and it won't happen again, everything inside us wants to believe that it's true. I remember one woman's words very distinctly, she finally came to the point where she said, "I know I have to find a way to leave someone that I love more than my very self". It's difficult and it's complicated. And I've seen strong, intelligent and beautiful women get hooked into an abusive relationship; and then come alive and build a new life again once the abuse ends.

 I'm glad this woman left before things got even worse.  This kind of abuser often ends up killing his wife because she left him, or was on the verge of doing so.  I hope that one day she can come out of the closet and no longer have to fear that people will condemn her for choosing life over hell.  It's unfortunate that she didn't see the warning signs before she married the guy because for one, I find it difficult to believe there were none.  But often the victims are in denial and figure the guy will change once they're married.  On the contrary, you often get more of the same.  In an issue of Scientific American Mind some years ago there was a story about a woman who was murdered by her husband when she broke up with him under the title "Love and Death," and in that story of spousal abuse the abuse had begun before the couple got married.  I don't remember when that article was published, but with the title of the magazine and the article people should be able to find it.

Thanks so much to the one who has courageously shared her story.

I have walked this road with many women. And I've seen the amazing positive changes that can happen when the abuse ends. We don't often realize the HUGE damage caused by constant emotional, psychological, and even spiritual abuse. Until we've walked in another's shoes; we need to be very careful not to judge. Instead, as the Church we are called to love. It is not loving to encourage someone to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not loving to allow someone to persist in their sin of abuse. Of course we want to uphold the permanence of marriage. But at what cost? Don't we also need to also uphold up the sanctity and purity of the marriage relationship? That doesn't happen when abuse is allowed to continue.

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