Saturday, April 30, 2005

Where does our Place of Worship stand?

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 10:14 PM

To the Women:

“You know what your problem is?? Your problem is that you have no idea what a submission is! If you would open that empty little head of yours and listen for once you would know I’m right! What the hell is your problem?? HUH! Why can’t you be the wife you need to be!”

To the Men:

“Why can’t you be the head of the household like the bible says? I need a real man in my life not someone that acts like a major wimp! Do you not have any backbone at all? I can’t do both jobs here! Why don’t you try to be man for once in your life!”

Ouch! That hurts reading it doesn’t it? Can you imagine what feelings were going on in that person’s head receiving those messages? I sure stunned would be the first reaction for most.

Imagine having to live with the person that screams this and worse even when you have asked them to stop, or after you walk away they continue anyway.

Lets say you tell your spouse that you will not continue is conversation right that moment. It is plain that they are upset, and you would be happy to continue this when emotions have cooled down a little. Sounds like a right answer doesn’t it? What if doesn’t work?

For a long time spouses have come to the church with complains such as this. They had lived in homes with this atmosphere trying to find answers to get this type of banter to stop.

They met the imagined goals that the spouse states would fix things, and it continues. They have tried different approaches, and it still persists. The have completely bent themselves up into pretzels trying to please and stop the tension! Now they are getting pretty desperate.

They are willing to speak out and place the shame over this treatment to the side for once!

THEY don’t want to leave THEY just want it to STOP!

For people of faith most will go to the church in time of crisis in their lives. They look for answers, encouragement and support from their place of worship.

In this case their church can either be a roadblock or a resource for dealing with experiences that are so central in their lives. The outcome of this depends on how they are handled.

What’s your church’s approach to this going to be? Go home and pray harder and be better wife/husband?

The cause of this is because of your past sin!

You are suffering so that God can make you a better person!

Please try to be more submissive and honor your spouse!


There is no acknowledgment in those statements of the pain, shame and suffering that these people have gone thru.

Maybe the spouse in question has an outstanding position within the church also, and they can’t imagine this person acting like this!

The spouse that is talking to you has indeed mentioned some nasty remarks, but we all have to live with that right? How about you can bet your bottom dollar that is just the tip of the iceberg is more like it!

Misinterpretation of scripture or traditions can make the person asking for empathy of their situation left with feelings of guilt, self-blame and very more suffering.

The offender had already placed all kinds of items in their heads, and they may have felt there was something wrong with it. They to go the church and their offender’s statements seem to be re-enforced. “But the bible says….” Is used to explain away the complex issues of their lives in very simplistic terms.

They are left with this feeling that they are to blame just as the offender had been telling them they were! They are now feeling abandoned. A handful of sweet words to many are given as advice to the one is suffering.

These words deny the pain and suffering of this person, and you have placed a huge roadblock for the potential for healing!

This behavior violates the covenant, and people are using scripture to brush it under the carpet!

The trust in the relationship is shattered, and a fractured relationship is not going to be mended by simple words even with the best intentions!

Churches need to be willing to support those who are suffering, and acknowledge that is nothing wrong with struggling along with families and their many questions in which these ugly situations can raise.

They need to stop the fear of this issue, and educate themselves on the dynamics so they can truly help The church is to be a sign of God’s presence, and reminder of his love for us all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Submission - Who has the harder job?

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:47 AM

Biblical Submission:  Who really has the tougher role?

By Lara Featured Rightgrrl November 1998 

February 11, 1999 (All Scripture references from the King James Version unless otherwise stated.)

Ever since the Southern Baptist Convention came out with the resolution about Biblical submission and the family, I have been hammered by people either asking me what it means or trying to tell me how wrong it is.

Many of the complaints and confusion about the whole submission concept stem from a lack of understanding about what submission is really about.

The most common misconception about Biblical submission is that it implies a lower status of women. This idea comes from verses such as Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-23, and I Corinthians 11:3.

Some men have used these verses to say that all women should submit to all men, and men should always get their way. These people will misuse the Bible as an excuse to run their homes as dictatorships, abuse their wives, and even commit adultery. Anyone who does these things has missed the entire point of Biblical submission.

The whole teaching of Biblical submission has two parts to it, and one of them is almost always ignored. Critics and men misusing Scripture alike choose to harp on women submitting to their husbands and they forget that the husband also has a lot of responsibility to fulfill if he expects his wife to be submissive.

Both men and women are to submit themselves to God first. Period.

Christians are also supposed to submit to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:22).

Submission of all women to all men is never taught in Scripture. Rather, it is wives who submit to their own husbands and no other man.

As a single woman, I do not have to submit to any man unless he is a fellow believer or a leader over me; and even then, I submit because he is a believer or in a position of authority and not because he is a man. I do not submit at all if I am asked to do something against God for He is my ultimate Authority.

Much of the talk about submission occurs within the context of the marriage and family relationship. Within the family, God has called the husband to be the spiritual head. This does _not_ imply inferiority on the part of the wife or children by any means. Rather, God had divided the responsibilities of the family between the husband and wife, and the husband got the spiritual leadership part.

Sounds great, eh? King of the castle? Not quite. Not even close. While each family member will answer to God for their own actions, the husband/father will have to answer not only for himself, but also for his family. It will be the husband/father who will be called into account if he neglected or misused his role in the family. Did he give up his role as the leader? Did he abuse his wife or children? Did he neglect them? Did he set a poor example? Did he not encourage his wife and children to use their talents fully? There are so many things the husband has to consider. Far from being a cushy position of power, the role of spiritual leader requires a lot of sacrifice for his family (Ephesians 5:25).

Are wives supposed to be doormats? Certainly not. Women have a powerful influence on their families. A husband who runs the house as a dictator and does not include his wife in decision making ends up getting himself in a lot of trouble. God made man and woman to have differing perspectives. The wife may be able to see important things in some situations that her husband would not normally take into account, so her insight is vital to the proper functioning of the family. Just because the leadership is not in her hands does not mean that intelligence, creativity, and common sense cannot be. We will usually have more of at least one of those three qualities than our husbands. That is not an insult to men, just a realization that God brings together people whose abilities complement each other's.

One interesting note: The Bible never commands a woman to love her husband, but it does command a man to love his wife as his own body (See Ephesians 5:25-29, 33; Colossians 3:19). She does have the command to obey, but think about this... we can obey anybody... a teacher, a parent, a boss, whatever. Who can we really love? If the husband is following God's will for himself and his family, he will love his wife. He will take the lead in his family. He will NOT take advantage of the situation to abuse or dominate (Ephesians 5:28-29). He will treat his wife and children properly. That'll make it a lot easier for the wife to do her part... and she will love him if he's being right to her.

People only pay attention to the wife's side of the submission issue... but the husband is really the one with the greater responsibility before God. *Now* who's got the tough job?

This article copyright © 1999 by Lara Ray, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Issues in Christian Marriages

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 7:40 PM

Issues in the Christian Marriage Excerpted from Dr. Margaret Rinck's Christian Men Who Hate Women

Chapter 4:  

Issues in the Christian Marriage Unique Manifestations of Misogyny in Christian Relationships

There are some unique expressions (of misogyny) within Christian homes, that result from distortions of Christian faith and theology. These distortions play into the already sick relationship, in many cases exacerbating it.

Using the Bible as a Weapon

Christian misogynists (CMs) use the Bible as their main tool to control those around them.  The evangelical faith does stress the importance of scripture; yet these men use it as a weapon to control and manipulate others. By quoting the Bible and referring to its authority, CMs have a seemingly foolproof weapon in their campaign to control their wives. Christian women also view scripture as their standard of behavior; so when their husbands use it to point out their failures, they are quick to succumb and condemn themselves. They end up feeling constantly condemned by their spouses, by scripture and by God.It never occurs to them to question their husbands' interpretation of scripture or to decide for themselves whether it is being used appropriately.

As we all know, scripture can and has been used to justify everything from slavery to the Holocaust.In the hands of a CM, we see a more subtle, but nonetheless serious distortion.

No Christian wants to be "out of God's will" or do something "Jesus wouldn't do;" so compliant, dutiful wives fall into line when CMs use these phrases whether or not it makes sense, feels right or seems healthy.
Another common way CMs manipulate their wives is to grow very solemn and serious, take out their bible...and proceed to tell them what "God or the Holy Spirit has led me to do..." Christian wives are drawn easily into such spiritual manipulation.

Misuse of Biblical Authority/Roles

...the evangelical Christian respects authority. All authority figures are seen as receiving their position from God...The husband is seen as the "head of the home" (though scripture never uses that phrase; it describes men as "head" of their wives, not the home.) He has final authority, and what he says goes! Without debating the merits of this theological doctrine, suffice it to say that it is often abused. Many men use this notion of their sanctioned "authority" to commit atrocities against women. For the most part, women have been taught to acquiesce to authority; and when the weight of the church's or God's sanction is added, they do not receive permission to question or offer opposition. Some Christian teachers advocate these ideas to an extreme. At a national seminar I attended, one well-known bible teacher said that even if a woman's husband beat her she would be better off to "obey God" submit to the beatings and even die, rather than to leave him and seek relief.

Underlying Root Problem

Using the bible as a weapon, especially the concept of "God's will" to manipulate and misusing the concept of biblical authority are symptoms of deeper problems within the Christian community.

The Code of Silence

The first issue is denial. The concept of wife abuse is an anathema to most Christians. The idea of anyone hating someone else, much less men hating women, is difficult for most Christians to conceive. The facade of Christian "niceness" maintained by an abuser at church and in the community confuses his spouse. Besides, he is even nice at home--sometimes! He'll lead the family in prayer one minute; the next he's beating someone black and blue. Or he'll come home raging and shouting earlier in the day and beg forgiveness, swearing that he has had a "new experience with the Lord"...Or he may come home and act as if the tirade or beating never happened.

Shame is another reason why denial has such a tight grip on the Christian church. Instead of being a place where people feel safe to expose their painful problems, the church is often a "holier than thou" social club where everyone tries to appear more sanctified than everyone else. If a person can't appear more holy, one certainly doesn't want appear less holy; so women who are hurting from misogynistic relationships find it almost impossible to summon up the courage to tell anyone...

One problem frequently faced by wives in misogynistic relationships is that when they do tell someone in the church, they are either discounted or not believed. The misogynist looks so good--how could he be doing these things!

The following statements are typical responses that these wives often receive from pastors, pastoral counselors, elders, and even other women:

"You're just tired. Get a good night's sleep and things will look better tomorrow."

"Sounds like you need to be a better wife so that he'll be a better husband. You aren't trying enough to please him."

"You wouldn't upset him so much if you'd just be submissive."

"You're not being a good wife. If you were, he wouldn't act like this."

"You haven't been praying hard enough for him."

"All you have to do is trust God. He knows what's best. It'll work out. Don't forget Romans 8:28."

"You shouldn't talk that way about your husband. He's a fine Christian man, a leader at our church! Why are you trying to get attention this way?"

"Are you giving him enough sex? Maybe if you were more interested in sex, he'd stop being so upset.All most men need is a warm dinner and a warm wife in bed."

Silence is not golden when it covers up any type of abuse. However, silence and denial are apt to be the norm until the church becomes a safe place for people to be real.

Sexism in the Church

Like it or not there is sexism in the church. Many conservative Christians dismiss the idea of sexism as non-Christian, silly, feminist, or irrelevant. They regard themselves as doing things "God's way" and do not see any need to consider whether prejudice has also crept into the pew. Those sensitive to the realities of sexism in our culture realize that it permeates all our institutions, just like any other sinful behavior. Yet even in churches where such sensitivity exists outwardly, sexism is often lurking underground.

The Submission Syndrome: Out of Balance Theology

Another root problem in the evangelical church is misuse of the biblical idea of submission.This concept has been warped and twisted in so many ways that I doubt the biblical authors would recognize it.

Many Christians confuse obedience with submission. Even the traditional wedding ceremony contains the wife's promise to "obey" her husband. Yet scripture never uses "obey" in relation to wives; it does use the word in reference to slaves and children (Eph. 6:1,5) Another misapplication of this concept is the assumption that only women are to be submissive. The Bible is clear both in precept and in example that submission is the lifestyle of all Christians. Scripture calls for mutuality in the marriage relationship. (Eph.5:21)

Proper Biblical Roles between Men and Women in Marriage
  1. Both partners live in a daily, personal, voluntary, submission to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
  2. Love is based on a deep, mutual respect as the guiding principle behind all decisions, actions and plans. (I Cor. 13).
  3. Both partners are aware of their status as "heirs together" in Christ (I Peter 3:7) and as equal members of the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12) members uniquely gifted by God's Holy Spirit. Both recognize that the purpose of those gifts is to build up the body of Christ as well as their own relationship.
  4. Natural abilities and talents of each individual, as well as spiritual gifts, are a practical basis for delegating various roles and responsibilities in the home.
  5. The emphasis is on a mature relationship between two adults, not on prescribed, arbitrary roles or functions into which each personality rather than as a career or an organization.
  6. Each person maintains their own God-given personal identity and personality. The concept of being "one flesh" does not mean that each individual has lost his individuality or uniqueness."
  7. The sexual relationship is not only procreative but it is one of joy, fun, fulfillment and refreshment for both partners.
  8. Intimacy and deep emotional closeness replaces game playing and role playing.
  9. Honesty and fidelity are the cornerstones of healthy communication patterns, based on a deep, abiding trust in the other person and in Christ.
  10. Decision-making is based on process where both partner have a willingness to come to a mutually satisfying outcome. Consensus is the goal in all matters of importance and neither party manipulates the other to force agreement. Each person has areas of authority and responsibility where they themselves make decisions based on their gifts, talents, and expertise in those areas. When consensus does not come immediately, the matter is committed to prayer and is not acted upon until there's agreement

The Salvation Syndrome

A woman in a misogynistic relationship may believe that she can change or "save" her husband by being sweet, submissive and passive, but the reality is that this tactic does not work. She must realize the misogynists emotional investment in maintaining his stance. The misogynist's deepest fear is abandonment. He believes that the best way to keep his woman from leaving him is to cripple her emotionally, to limit her activities, and to keep her guessing psychologically. He does this by using the variety of tactics previously discussed. The goal is to keep her in her palace so he will not have to be alone. This action is unconscious; outwardly he appears to be in control, the ultimate master of his fate. This type of person will likely use God, salvation, the church and even conversion itself as more powerful ways to protect himself from abandonment. He may experience a conversion, but he will not alter his life game plan because of that conversion per se. In my experience, the CM must lose or almost lose his wife because of his behavior before he becomes honest enough to face his deepest fear and truly experience God's grace.

Another problem with the salvation syndrome is that it reinforces his wife's codependency. On one hand the codependent person sees herself as the victim, the martyr, the one called to suffer, and on the other, as the righteous one, the savior, the "Messiah", the one who is "right" and righteous...She keeps hoping God will act, while refusing to take the necessary action to confront her husband in order to change the dynamics of the situation. She fails to understand that perhaps one way God will use her to "help" her husband is by refusing to be abused and leaving him.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Clergy's Response - Guidelines

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 10:25 PM

This is just part of the article I found on but was removed. It talks about domestic violence in the form of beating, but the principles are the same for all types of abuse.


The most important first step for clergy is to recognize that domestic violence exists with greater frequency than you may have assumed, even within your own religious community. The battered woman is in your congregation, however well she or her abuser may attempt to conceal that presence. Within your congregation there are also batterers. There are also children witnessing, or themselves enduring, violence in their homes on a regular basis. For these reasons, it is important that clergy learn how to recognize and deal with domestic violence.

The second most important step in your efforts to help is to understand and to declare that domestic violence is a crime and will not be tolerated. The worship service, although approached from various theological perspectives, provides clergy with an opportunity to speak to issues which concern the gathered religious community and to relate these to their faith and tradition. Thus an entire community can be made more aware of issues of domestic violence and encouraged to respond in ways that will help the victims, batterers and their families who are experiencing violence.

Sample services and sermons are available in several of the books or manuals on domestic violence listed in the bibliography (pp. 146, 147) or are available from denominational resources.

(1) James M. Nichols, Wounded in the House of My Friends, Spouse Abuse: Can the Church Cope?
Guidelines for Clergy (1)

When a woman comes to you for help or you suspect there may be violence in the home, there are some specific things to keep in mind. Problems associated with domestic violence are difficult to work through. Usually patterns of abuse have existed for a long time, and unless you are a professionally trained counselor, you should not enter into a long-term counseling or therapy situation. You are in a unique position to relate and minister to all parties and these pastoral relationships need to be preserved.
The response of clergy and laity to the religious crisis caused by domestic violence can be a great resource for victims. The following guidelines may prove helpful; however, as a clergy person, you need to be aware that the life of the victim may be in immediate danger and safety is the first concern.

  1. Ask the question. Women rarely come in and announce they have been battered. Women may come for counseling and speak in terms that are general or vague. Develop some ways that you are comfortable with for asking specific questions such as, "Are you in danger?" "What does he do when he gets angry?" "Are you worried about the safety of you and your children?" Listen to the woman and understand her situation; uncover abuse; recognize panic and fear. Take seriously her assessment of a life-threatening situation and the potential danger of her from her husband's violence. Do not discount her fears that he may try to kill her if she leaves, or that if she stays she may end up dead.
  2. Believe her! Battered women will often be telling you the minimal truth, not an exaggerated version. There are many things a battered woman fears and fear of not being believed is a strong one. This fear will be compounded in religious settings when her husband chairs a board, sings in the choir or is a "pillar of the community," all of which are very likely. It is important for her to break the silence by describing what is happening to her. Telling you the story is embarrassing for her. She is not likely to exaggerate.
  3. Listen to her and affirm her feelings. It is crucial that clergy respond with affirmation and without judgment to a battered woman. Let her be your teacher and educator. You be a listener. Listen without assigning blame.  Active and respectful listening may be more important than giving theological answers. Listening carefully and attentively can help you discern what is important to the person in crisis. The important thing is to learn, from inside the victim's own theology, what will be helpful to her for her safety and well-being. You can discuss theological differences when the person is not in crisis.
  4. Unequivocally challenge violence. It is often difficult for victims of domestic violence to come forward because of our tendency to "victimize the victim." It is important to state clearly that violence is not acceptable and not ask a woman questions such as "What did you do to provoke him?" A battered woman is not responsible for the violence in her relationship. Confront her with the reality of the situation: she can't make him stop and neither can you. She can, however, declare that she will leave if he does it again, or that she will not come back until he gets help.  Support faith statements that address the victim's safety, well-being and empowerment. A victim may say, "I believe that God never sends us anything we can't handle." This sincere belief may be both an obstacle and an opportunity. On the one hand, it implies that God has sent this abuse, that it is God's will, that we must put up with and endure the "cross that God has seen fit to lay upon us." This first implication could stand in the way of the victim's safety. On the other hand, it also implies that God knows this person has resources for dealing with the abusive situation. It may be more helpful to affirm this part of the statement and say, "Let's name the resources you think God has given you to deal with it."
  5. Encourage her to find a safe place for herself if she is in physical danger. Such a place could be the home of a friend or relative, a shelter, a motel or a church-family refuge.
  6. Offer the woman alternatives from which to choose. Her vision may be so clouded from a life of abuse that she may not be able to see her options. Some of these options may be individual counseling, career counseling, support groups, education, separation, help for the battered, divorce or legal aid or counsel.
  7. It is extremely important that a battered woman make her own choices and make them in her own time. Support her even if you disagree with her decision. If she decides to stay in the relationship, it is appropriate to share with her your concern for her safety and to discuss ways she can increase her safety. It is not appropriate for you to tell her what she has to do or should do. Beware of your tendency to want to rescue the woman. It is imperative for her to make her own choices: whether to stay or to leave, and how to do it.
  8. Help her discover and develop her own resources: money, friends, relatives, employment, stress reduction. Encourage her to make contact with the nearest shelter.
  9. Confront what is happening to any children who are involved in this relationship. Are they being abused by either her husband or her? Does she want this kind of future for them? Sometimes concern for the welfare of her children can motivate a woman to act. In many states there is a legal obligation to report any known child abuse.
  10. Have it as your goal to involve her in a domestic violence program as soon as possible. In addition, a woman counselor or lay leader or women's group can provide further support she may need to deal with her situation.
  11. Continue to support her. It is important that you not give a battered woman resources and then exit the scene, particularly if she has been an active member of your congregation. Maintain contact by checking with her periodically to see how she is doing and offer more information on resources.
  12. Assure confidentiality. Let her know that you will not discuss this matter with anyone else without her permission. Agree that you will not call on her at home and bring up the subject. Doing either of these may increase her danger as well as increase her fear and distrust.
  13. Confronting the abuser. Any information shared by a victim about her assailant's behavior must be considered confidential in order to guard her safety. Clinical experience suggests that confrontation with abusers by untrained practitioners may endanger victims and should be avoided at all costs.  If the abuser confronts you, remember he may vehemently deny any wrongdoing and may not even be able to remember the episodes of violence. You will need to be patient with him, yet unrelenting in your statements that the violence must cease today. The abuser may have a long history of violence in his own family and will need help in seeing his behavior clearly and beginning to identify the patterns of violence in his life. This should be a learning process to effect change and NOT an exercise in finding excuses for the violent behavior. There is no short term solution to a life of violence, therefore it should be your goal to involve him in a batterer's program as soon as possible. It is just as important for you to maintain contact with the abuser to offer hope and support as it is for you to support the victim.
  14. Individual counseling is usually the only option. Unless the violence has completely stopped and the man has gone through a batterer's program, couples counseling could increase the level of violence a woman experiences. She faces the fact that if she talks about the situation she will be beaten later, and not being able to talk about the situation nullifies the counseling process. The immediate goal is not to save the marriage, but to stop the violence.
  15. Give her the gift of time and be prepared for frustration. A battered woman needs time to sort through a lot of religious, social, emotional and economic issues. She deserves time and patience from you as she does this. She will know when the time is right for her to act. Provide support and help her rebuild her sense of self-worth, self-confidence and the belief that she can make it on her own.  Respectfully offer alternatives to faith statements that are keeping victims trapped. A good way to do this is to make "I" statements. If you say, "I am confident that God does not want you to suffer," or "I do not believe that God is punishing you for sin" you may be heard as offering possibilities to victims, rather than shaming and blaming them for believing the wrong thing. Connected with ideas of sin may be the victim's feeling that she must forgive the abuser and stay in the abusive situation. Respectfully suggest that if abuse is ongoing, it means that the abuser has not repented and that therefore forgiveness is not appropriate. You may suggest that forgiveness is the end, not the beginning, of the healing process. You may suggest that forgiveness is up to God, not up to the victim.
  16. Refer! Refer! Refer! Domestic violence affects the entire family. Many local domestic violence programs have professionals who will work with the women, the children and the abusers. Domestic violence does not stop by itself. Children who grow up witnessing violence are likely to become victims and abusers.

(1) Much of the material used in these guidelines has been adapted from: Bussert, Joy M.K., Battered Women: From a Theology of Suffering to an Ethic of Empowerment, suggestions offered by Pellauer, Mary, "Ministry of Abusive Families," Vol. 16. Family Resources, 2900 Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA: Division for Parish Services, Lutheran Church of America, and from Clark, Rita-Lou, Pastoral Care of Battered Women.

Relating to Service Providers

local shelter programs
local batterers programs
local self-help groups
Alcoholics Anonymous
local individual, marital and family therapists
the local prosecutor's office

Domestic violence programs and their staff see or speak with hundreds of victims and batterers on a daily basis, twenty-four hours a day. They are skilled and experienced with handling the complicated and difficult issues of domestic violence. Ideally, clergy should develop a partnership with them. The staff of programs can support the clergy's ongoing pastoral care to victims, batterers and their families, relatives and congregations. Clergy can support the domestic violence staff's ongoing efforts to provide safety, legal recourse and counseling to those involved.

Among the things which may be helpful to know is how domestic violence programs operate and what philosophy many of them utilize.

Programs for victims and related programs for non-resident victims, children who witness violence, and for batterers exist in every state. Clergy and religious communities can support these programs in the following ways:

(1) Post in a prominent place the phone numbers for emergency hot lines, the local shelter and programs for violent partners;

(2) Visit and talk with counselors in the above programs;

(3) Ask the program if there are basic needs which the congregation could assist in gathering. Some of these supplies might be: clothing, food, furniture, toys, linens;

(4) Recruit volunteers for training and ongoing assistance at the shelter;

(5) Write to local, state, and national legislators encouraging them to support local programs;

(6) Offer to sponsor a woman who needs a place to live or to assist her in finding and furnishing a place to live.
In a broader response, clergy and religious communities can act as prophetic "voices crying in the wilderness" by also:

(1) Sponsoring a series of forums on domestic violence;

(2) Organizing a task force on domestic violence to keep informed on the issues and to respond in new ways as needed:

(3) Subscribing to newsletters of local programs and to national networks and posting the phone number of local programs in church bulletins;

(4) Forming a study group to consider some of the religious issues raised by domestic violence and making the group's discoveries available to those experiencing domestic violence.

Crisis Counseling

If you receive a call from a victim who has just been beaten, is in crisis and asking for help, we suggest the following:

Do not go to the home. The violence may still be occurring and could be dangerous to you. Offer to call the police.

Ask her if the violence is over and how she is at this point. Does she need medical attention? Does she fear her abuser will be back? Where are the children? Does she have a safe place she can go to? If a shelter is her only option, provide her with the phone number and encourage her to call.

Encourage her to make contact with the local victims program, whatever she decides. Most domestic violence programs, in an effort to empower a woman to take responsibility for her safety and her needs, prefer a victim to call for help directly. Strongly encourage her to do so.

If a couple comes to you for counseling because of episodes of violence, recognize that this visit rarely occurs without pressure from civil authorities or under threats from relatives. Occasionally, the victim has compelled the abuser to go to couples counseling by stating that she will not see him under any other circumstances. In this latter case, you will be a third party to their "visitation" and have little room for counseling interventions.

The success rate for treating violent relationships in couple counseling is extremely low. Most abusers are looking for easy, quick solutions and for immediate ways of getting back together with their partner-victim. Most victims do not want to separate or leave their partner-batterer and wish to believe that if they confront their abuser before a third party (the pastor), the abuser will be forced or embarrassed into changing his behavior. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

If a couple comes to you for counseling because of violent episodes in the relationship or if you discover in the course of counseling a couple that violence occurs in their relationship, we strongly recommend that you refer them to a domestic violence program or to a counselor trained in treating domestic violence situations. In most cases, each partner will be referred to separate counselors or to a group situation for victims or for batterers. The victim's goal is to take responsibility for her safety needs. The batterer is to take responsibility for his violent behavior and to change it.

Pre-Marital Counseling

Pre-marital counseling is a unique and crucial opportunity for you to assess how a man responds to and deals with anger and frustration, and how the couple interacts and responds to each other. In pre-marital counseling you can explore family histories as well as current behaviors. (Seventy percent of all men who batter saw their mother being battered.) Early warning signs such as alcohol or drug abuse, physical abuse during courtship, cruelty to animals, inability to handle frustration, poor self-image, extreme possessiveness and jealousy, a police record for a violent crime and many other characteristics can help identify potential batterers. These early warning signs and other literature or discussion of family violence should become an integral part of Pre-Cana, Engagement Encounter or any other pre-marital programs in your congre-ation.

Early Warning Signs

Alcohol/Drug Abuse. Experts say that between 40 and 80 percent of battering incidents involve alcohol and drug abuse.

Physical abuse during courtship is often a guarantee of later abuse. The evidence is overwhelming that after one beating there will be more. As time goes on, the abuse usually will become more severe and more frequent. It can be a mistake to marry with the idea "I can change him."

Violent environments breed abuse. If a man grows up seeing his father beat his mother, he is apt to think of abuse as normal behavior. If he was violently abused by his parents, there may be a greater chance that he will batter his wife, his child, or both.

Abusers are often cruel to animals. Many kill them for sport, and this should not be minimized. Anyone who beats a dog or other pets should be considered a potential batterer.

An inability to handle frustration should be a warning. If relatively minor problems, such as missing a parking space or being jostled in a crowd, cause a man to blow his top, to scream and otherwise seriously over react to the situation, he may try to handle many of the normal frustrations of marriage by abusing his spouse.

Batterers are men who cannot handle frustration and turn to violence as a solution to problems. A man who frequently punches walls, breaks objects or throws things in rage is likely to turn on a woman.

A poor self-image is another characteristic of a batterer. Men often attack women when they feel their masculinity has been threatened.

Extreme possessiveness and jealousy. If a man considers his spouse to be his property and becomes enraged when he does not receive all of her attention, he is a potential abuser. If he is threatened by a woman's friendships and does not want her to form any, that should be considered as another negative sign.

A police record for a violent crime, such as rape, assault and battery, or armed robbery. Any type of recurring violent behavior is a sign.

A general dislike or mistrust of women.

A Summary of Clergy Response

1. Indicate that violence of any kind in marriage and family life is unacceptable. Let the congregation know where you stand in clear and simple terms.

2. To help the congregation deal with the issues of domestic violence, educate members through sermons and by setting up appropriate educational programs for adults, teens and children.

3. Make contact with the local domestic violence program. Become familiar with available resources such as audio-visual materials and speakers bureau.

4. Find out what the congregation can do to support your local domestic violence program. Furniture and clothing for women and children, as well as financial support, may be needed.

5. Familiarize yourself with legal matters which may arise. Staff workers and volunteers at local domestic violence programs are trained to help women deal with legal issues and are an available resource.

6. Be prepared to discuss the theological and religious issues with the victim, the children, the abuser and the congregation. Suggested ways to educate yourself about domestic violence include:

a) Investigating denominational resources on local, regional, and national levels.

b) Exploring the religious and theological issues with your study group or other peers.

c) Reflecting on these issues personally through study and prayer.

d) Attending training seminars sponsored by your local domestic violence program and the New Jersey Clergy Outreach Project.
Pastoral Self Care

Helping families who are experiencing violence is extremely frustrating and difficult work. Clergy would do well to remember that they are not able to control all the events in the lives of their congregants. What excellent and competent clergy we would be if we could spare our congregants the suffering and pain that life holds.

Since that is not possible, it is always helpful to have a support network of other clergy or helping professionals with whom to share some of the concerns and feelings which come up in the course of helping congregants in crisis. Develop a network for yourself. The staff of domestic violence programs can also function in this way for you. Beyond offering guidance and resources, they can offer support to you personally in your efforts to make a difference in the lives of the people in your congregation.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

What does Islam say about Domestic Violence

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:05 PM

Islam condemns domestic violence. Once a number of women came to the prophet, on whom be peace, to complain that their husbands had beaten them. The prophet announced that men who beat their wives are not good men. The prophet also said, "Do not beat the female servants of Allah."

Allah knows that life is not always a bowl of cherries. And so He stipulates that a man must be kind to his wife even if he happens to dislike her (Qur'an 4-19). Allah offers a good reason as to why men should not dislike their wives. Allah says that He has placed much good in women (Qur'an 4:19).

In this regard the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, said that no believing man should hold a grudge against a believing woman. So what is a husband to do if he dislikes some things about his wife? This is bound to occur, since no human being is perfect. The prophet instructed that men should look for the agreeable traits in their wives rather than focus on their faults. (See Saheeh Muslim, chapter on advice relating to women).
The prophet also advised men that if they wish to benefit from marriage they should accept their wives as they are rather than try to straighten them out and thus end up in divorce.

In the following verse of the Qur'an, Allah warns men that if they retain their wives in marriage it should not be to take advantage of them. The verse reads: "Retain them in kindness or release them in kindness. But do not retain them to their hurt so that you transgress (the limits). If anyone does that he wrongs his own soul. Do not take God's instructions as a jest" (Qur'an 2:231).

Once the prophet, on whom be peace, was asked what are the obligations of husbands toward their wives. He replied: "Feed her when you eat, and provide her clothing when you provide yourself. Neither hit her on the face nor use impolite language when addressing her" (See Mishkat, chapter on the maintenance of women).

The prophet equated perfect belief with good treatment to one's wife when he said: "The most perfect believer is one who is the best in courtesy and amiable manners, and the best among you people is one who is most kind and courteous to his wives" (see Tirmidhi, chapter on the obligations of a man to his wife). Finally, the prophet, the best example of conduct said: "The best among you is the one who treats his family best."

Some of the last words of the prophet delivered during the farewell pilgrimage enjoins that men should hold themselves accountable before Allah concerning the question of how they treat their wives. Therefore his advice to all men, is as follows: "You must treat them with all kindness."

Below is some resources geared towards the Muslim Faith that I have found:

Islamic Society of North America

Domestic Violence Programs for Muslim Communities


Asian / Pacific-Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project


Muslim Women's League


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jewish Action - Some myths and realities

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:55 PM

Spouse Abuse in Religious Families Some myths and realities

Hotlines for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Myth: Every marriage has a few fights now and then. Crying "abuse" is just a way to get attention.

Reality: Abuse is not the same as normal marital arguments. Abuse is an ongoing pattern of power and control that progressively limits the thoughts, words and actions of the victim, out of fear of the abuser. Abuse is like addiction: it never gets better by itself and it requires in-depth work by the abuser to change his/her way of relating to others. When there is abuse in a marriage, couples counseling cannot help until there is first a change in the abuser and he or she stops the abuse for good.

Myth: If the abused person would just change or try harder, the abuse would stop. "It takes two to tango."

Reality: Although normal marriage is a two-way street, in this case experience shows that "trying harder" will escalate the abuse. Abuse is the responsibility of the abuser. No matter how annoying or difficult one's spouse or children are, that is never an excuse to abuse and hurt them.

Myth: Women abuse their husbands just as much as the opposite.

Reality: About 5% of the time the man is the primary victim of spouse abuse (and is usually less likely than a woman to tell anyone). Generally, when there is abuse, it is the wife who is abused by her husband. Wife abuse is one of the main reasons for women to be seen in hospital emergency rooms. When women hit or scratch, it is often in self-defense.

Myth: If the abuse isn't physical, it isn't really so serious.

Reality: We know that words can wound more deeply than blows. Ona'as devarim [pain caused by words alone] is a serious prohibition in the Torah. Emotional abuse kills the spirit. Furthermore, physical abuse is always accompanied, and often preceded, by emotional abuse. At the extreme, emotional abuse can cause physical illness, loss of the will to live or death by suicide.

Myth: Abusers are generally unpleasant or angry people. I could certainly tell if someone were an abuser.

Reality: Abusers are not monsters: they are often some of the most charming and helpful people around. Abuse is about control, not anger; the same person who claims his wife made him hit her because she "pushed his buttons" wouldn't dream of acting that way to a boss, a policeman or a rabbi he respected, no matter how angry he was.

Myth: If the abuse is kept quiet, it won't affect the children.

Reality: Children always know when something is wrong. Spouse abuse has demonstrable physical, neurological, emotional and social effects on children of all ages, including infants. Over 50% of the time, when a spouse is being abused, the children are also direct victims of child abuse. About 2/3 of children who witness spouse abuse end up in abusive marriages when they grow up.

Myth: If a spouse is abused, she or he has no choice but to get a divorce.

Reality: While divorce is one halachic option, there are many reasons a person might choose to stay in an abusive marriage. Some of these are: hope that things will get better; financial worries; concerns for children; family and community pressure; fear that one will not be believed; lack of confidence in oneself. Often the abuser has threatened to hurt himself and/or others if the spouse leaves. The way a victim chooses to deal with abuse is up to that person.

Myth: If the abuser promises to do teshuvah, we should let bygones be bygones.

Reality: Teshuvah [repentance] is a long, in-depth process that requires that the abuser take complete responsibility for his or her actions. It certainly involves much more than a mere intention or statement that the abuser won't do this again. Teshuvah is possible, but the process of healing cannot generally be done without the help of a competent and informed rabbi and a therapist who understand the dynamics of abuse. This is an area that involves many halachic questions; it is essential that this process not be attempted on one's own.

Myth: What goes on in other people's families is private. Why should I deal with this problem?

Reality: Abuse in our community will begin to disappear when we no longer allow it. This means acknowledging the problem openly, giving concrete and emotional support to the victims, offering help to abusers if they want it and urging them to get help. Abuse is not a private issue. It affects future generations by passing on the message that abuse is normal in marriage, and it sometimes alienates victims and their children from Judaism when they see that what the Torah says about family life can be violated with no apparent outcry from the community. Abuse in our families is a Chillul Hashem. It is up to us, as a community, to stop it.

"Myths and Realities" provided by NISHMA Hotline of Ezras Bayis, a project of the Orthodox Counseling Program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Psalm 55

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 10:02 PM

My heart is in anguish within me the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, "O that I had wings like a dove!"
And I would fly away and be at rest; yea, I would wander far,
I would lodge in the wilderness,
I would haste to find me a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.
It is not an enemy who taunts me-- then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me-- then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to hold sweet converse together;
within God's house we walked in fellowship.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends,
he violated his covenant.
His speech was smoother than butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet there were drawn swords.
Psalm 55 RSV

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some personal story from me!

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:57 AM

I do remember the time I figured out the “Label” for what was happening in my life! One night I was so exhausted, frustrated and completely without hope. I decided the best thing for me was to leave before anything got any worse.

I had my doubts about doing this, because of all the ugly statements I heard about myself in the past. I decided that I would scan over some divorce sites and see what I was up against. I didn’t get to far before I was reading this concept about “Verbal Abuse”. I had never heard that term before. It had a link to an article by Patricia Evans I believe.

As I read this I saw my life right there on paper. Not all applied so I had my doubts about whether the label was the correct one for me! It caught my interest enough to continue reading about the subject. I remember sitting there completely stunned. They spoke about a board online, and I went there. It was a small board with not that much action on it. I took the chance, and I posted my experience that night on the Internet. I remember telling them my doubts about how this may not apply to me, and all the excuses I had placed in my head about his behavior. Then I went to bed. I remember all this thoughts stirring inside my head. I had read every post on that site that night.

I remember the next day I went back thinking everyone would tell me that I was right with my doubts. I wasn’t seeing things clear, and here is a thought that never crossed my mind on how to fix my situation.

I remember instead them telling me that all the tactics on the list didn’t need to apply in order for me to call this “label” I had been looking for my own. They mentioned two books to read, and also encouraged me to contact my local DV shelter.

The books I was eager to get. The phone call I was way to frighten to handle. That just seemed way to extreme for me! I mean I had never been hit, and I didn’t think I fit into this mold of the stereotype I had in my mind about people that went there. I ran out and got the books right away, and read them within 2 days. There it was my life on paper! I had my doubts because of items I read in those books. I remember that passage that bugged me the most was, “And he does this behind closed doors” basically.

I knew my husband had shown his true colors for others to see at times, so again I figured this didn’t apply to me. I was told that if maybe he was just a little more dangerous than others, instead of it not applying. Never thought about that reasoning. Another theme that kept coming across was the fact that a lot of people felt they were at fault over what was happening in their lives. I really didn’t have that strong feeling myself. I knew it was “he” that was the problem! I just didn’t know how to fix it! Then the mindset of the abuser was explained to me, and I think in the back of my head I knew there was no fixing, but again doubt had been part of my life for so many years I wondered if I could be different.

They finally did talk me into calling the local Domestic violence shelter. I was so scared it wasn’t even funny! I as expecting them to say, “Sorry honey you aren’t within the realm for our type of help here! What in heaven’s name were you thinking!” I was shocked to find the opposite was true.

They met me in the next town over at a police station because of my fears of my town’s people finding out. People know me around here in a business sense, and the last thing I wanted them to find out was this appointment! I went and saw my therapist for over a month. I got sick with the flu one week, and called in to say I needed to stop right now. I knew my kids would be next, and I would call when this was over.

I drove into my denial stage again instead. It was months before I called them back. The strange thing was it was like they were waiting for me. I had a couple more sessions, and she asked if I would be interested in a group setting. I figured at this point she knew what I needed more than I did. She told me those few months I was away she had noticed a huge change within me. She was right the education was kicking in. I never stopped reading and searching. But I still had those doubts if this really applied to my life.

I started group and I will say that was the best thing for me! I wasn’t alone, and people actually truly understood me. After a while I in a panic about my children, and the effects of this on their life’s. They offered me services for them as well.

What I really needed to know about was what to expect if I did talk myself into a divorce. They handed me names of lawyers that knew about this “label” I had for my life. Yes, I had finally decided to own it then. The appointments with the lawyers opened by eyes about truths I never knew about. It was empowering but I still wasn’t ready to take that step. Instead I decided to open my mouth for the first time to people I cared about. I was surprised at the response I got, and I think I grew a little bit more.

One thing I had been avoiding all this time was my faith side. I mean this type of thing doesn’t happen to a true Christian. The ugliness of my life was never mentioned in sermons, or conversations with fellow churchgoers! You heard about the normal hard times that we live with, but never had abuse been mentioned. I went to the Internet again.

From my life’s experience I knew to find out as much as I could before opening my mouth. It seemed my questions and feelings were always so far off. At least that is how I felt about me. The one thing I wasn’t expecting happened. Up until this point I had found all this great information and help and support about my situation, but when I looked for things on my faith side there was this huge roadblock of silence on the subject.

It was strange because YES they did have articles listing symptoms of abuse, but I already knew all that. Some of the articles would say the list I was familiar with, and then in the next breath – get yourself some help it can be fixed. HOW? It never told you.

I read more and I found all these reasons I maybe at fault. I made this happen because I wasn’t a good enough wife, or maybe I wasn’t submissive enough. I need to keep all these scriptures in mind, and get all the education I had learned up to this point OUT of my head! To me instead of doubting again I had all kinds of questions. Their stand just didn’t make sense to me. God didn’t do this to me because of my past sin I felt! Why would he do that to my children they were innocent! He loves them and myself also, and that just plain didn’t make any logically sense to me AT ALL!

I knew I wasn’t completely blameless, but where is the accountability for his behavior? Not much on that subject I was very surprised. I did find some good readings after a while, but they were few and far between.

I started a blog with those articles that I did find. I spoke about my struggles with my faith in group, and they found some things to try to help me in this area. They were at a roadblock then (the shelter) in a way to help me. First time up to this point that they really had nothing to offer. I continue to research and challenge views that are out there. I remember the shelter staff coming to me with views/scriptures etc they had found when faith based organizations had approached them for help.

It was strange that they KNEW (faith based organizations) they were over this heads in this area, but couldn’t quite make that jump. I remember this getting me very defensive. I mean they could help a lot of people of faith if they would just open their eyes a little further. The shelter was a great resource in some areas, but they have the resources to heal the rest. I will never understand why they can’t work together.

Education has helped me the most with this “label” I have for my life. I still have doubts, but I have the resources now to fight them. Books, Boards, Articles, Therapy and finally friends helped me realize my life. The faith part is coming along slowly. LOL! I hope one day I have the courage to change that for others in the future. Make it so it isn’t so hard for them. I truly know in my heart that it shouldn’t be.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bible Verses on Domestic Abuse & Violence

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 11:23 PM

I have heard quite often from people that they feel the bible is silent on domestic violence. It says nothing of verbal abuse and emotional abuse. The bible may not use those words themselves, but the dynamics of abuse the bible does speak of. Below is an article that has some of the verses that mention behavior and attitudes that are very common within abusive relationships. I hope this article is helpful for you!


The Bible on Abuse and Violence

Many people think that the Bible has very little to say about abuse.

Quite often, if we as victims approach and confide in an elder, priest, or member of our Church, hoping for some support and encouragement, we can leave feeling even more guilty and trapped than we did formerly. We may be told that the abuse is due to our own lack of submissiveness, or our own sinfulness, that we would not suffer if our faith was greater, or that we will be rewarded in the next life for the suffering we experience in this one (!?!). I have heard of women who have been told earnestly by their vicar that it would be better for them to die at the hands of their abusive husband than to seek a separation and protection for their children!

When talking to Church members we have to realise that understanding of Domestic Abuse is still in its infant stages in many Churches, and that the majority of people (including elders, vicars and priests) still hold basic misconceptions regarding the dynamics of an abusive relationship and have formed their opinions less on what Scripture says, and more on those myths generally held in society. An added hurdle is to be found especially in the more fundamental denominations, where the mistaken belief is often that such things may happen "in the World", but not in a good Christian home!

The question, however, for every Christian person should not be what does our Church say about our situation, but what does the LORD say to us in the Bible, according to which both our Church should be based, and more importantly, according to which we, as individuals, should try to live?

The Bible condemns violence and violent men

Many passages in the Bible speak out on the issue of violence, and GOD's attitude toward those that repeatedly use violence:

Psalms 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.

Zephaniah 1:9 In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.

Psalms 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

Malachi 2:16-17 “I hate [...] a man’s covering his wife with violence, as well as with his garment.” says the Lord Almighty...."You have wearied the Lord with your words.” “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying “all who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”. (NIV alternate translation)
In a similar way, 'wrath' or anger is condemned as being sinful, as is sexual abuse:

James 1:19,20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 5:3-5 But fornication (note: that is to say, sexual immorality, including sexual abuse), and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God

What the Bible says about Verbal Abuse

Scripture also shows us that the very words we speak can be considered as a form of violence:

Proverbs 10:6 Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.

Matthew 5:21,22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire

As followers of Christ we are encouraged to consider everything we say to one another, whether it stands the test of being for the benefit of the hearer - verbal abuse surely does not qualify:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

The LORD sympathises and offers comfort to those who are afflicted

The LORD does hear our prayers, He does care when we cry. He is there to comfort, guide us and heal us.

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.

2 Samuel 22:28 And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.

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 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.

Psalms 72:14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalms 103:6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

Psalms 146:7 Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:

The Church has a responsibility to hold abusers accountable and to help victims

Firstly, the Church - and each individual follower of Christ - has a responsibility to offer comfort and help to those who are oppressed (by their partner), needy (of reassurance and protection), weak (due to the constant onslaught of abuse) and in distress.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Hebrews 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Jeremiah 22:3 Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

Genesis 42:21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

Isaiah 35:3,4 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Secondly, the Church also has a responsibility to hold the abuser accountable, to admonish him, to judge (that is, to investigate and discern right from wrong) and to encourage the abuser to change his/her ways:

Romans 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

James 5:19,20 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

1 Corinthians 6:1-3 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

As the above verses indicate, we, today, are encouraged to show a sinning Brother or Sister the error of their ways. In the Old Testament, those who had the position of being the spiritual guides of the God's people likewise had an obligation to warn those who were doing wrong of the consequences that would ensue if they did not change their ways. The words are non-compromising:

Ezekiel 3:17-19 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Thirdly, the manner in which the abuser is to be admonished (i.e. the spirit in which to approach him/her) is also spelled out for us Not one of us is perfect - our aim is not to condemn the person - whom Christ has called - but to condemn the actions, and try to encourage recognition of the sin, repentance and a change in ways:

2 Thessalonians 3:15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

We are to shun those that consistently oppress or wantonly harm others

Jesus laid out a clear and simple procedure to follow in the event of dealing with an erring brother (or sister!):

Mat. 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Those, who after several admonishings still stubbornly refuse to change their ways, are to be 'marked' or 'put away' - they are to be 'shamed' to the end that they realise the seriousness of their sin and repent:

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14,15 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Note: in all our dealings and communication with someone who has sinned, with an abuser in this instance, we have to remember that the aim is ALWAYS to try to seek a change of heart and ways in them. Hence it is also our duty to continuously encourage the abuser to face up to his personal responsibility, to repent and to seek forgiveness, and thereby be healed. Unrepentant, they are as the lost sheep in Christ's parable:

Matthew 18:12-14 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Scripture on how to treat each other

Christ has called us unto Peace, not fear, he has called us to follow his example of serving one another, not dominating each other, he has called us to Truth, not to deceit and hypocrisy. Christ has called us to Love, not to abuse.

Eph. 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Colossians 3:12,13 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

2 Peter 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Matthew 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

1 Peter 3:8 Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.


Where not otherwise stated, all quotations have been taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

No Place for Abuse - Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence , by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark, InterVarsity Press, Illinois


I have also found that James 3 speaks about emotional abuse and verbal abuse - also forms of domestic violence! The entire chapter speaks of the power of the tongue!

Additional Resources on the Subject:
Confronting Abuse As Sin

Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Policy statement on healing DV - Presbytian

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:50 PM


[The following text is the full text of the Rationale for "A. Turn Mourning Into Dancing! A Policy Statement on Healing Domestic Violence," paragraphs 25.002–.077.]

This report and recommendations are in response to the following referral: Overture 97-3. On Instructing the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to Develop a Policy on the Issues of Domestic Violence to Present to the 211th General Assembly (1999)—From the Presbytery of East Iowa (Minutes, 1997, Part I, pp. 42, 47, 681–82).

I. Introduction

The Sacrament of Baptism is a covenant-making ceremony marking our inclusion in the body of Christ. Baptism is not simply one ceremony, one event; it is an affirmation of the church's ongoing responsibility for care and nurture, spiritual formation, and sanctuary. It also marks the beginning of our call to discipleship.

Our model for this calling is Jesus Christ, whose ministry was characterized by his identification with the vulnerable: the poor, the children, the sick, the brokenhearted, the disabled, the outcast. His was a ministry that redefined neighbor and community, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was a ministry that redefined leadership and discipleship, replacing messianic visions of domination and headship with caring for the least of these.

As Jesus ministered to the physical and emotional wounds of those who endured marginalization and mistreatment, we, through our baptism, are called to do the same. We are called to work toward "The Great Ends of the Church," as stated in our Book of Order. Two ends that seem particularly relevant to this paper are "the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God," and "the promotion of social righteousness." Victims and survivors of domestic violence are children of God in need of "shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship." Their wounds call us to work for social righteousness.

How do we minister to them? How do we respond when the bodies and spirits of women and men, children, teens, the elderly, and the disabled are threatened? In a culture saturated with domestic violence, how do we, the church, become a resource of prevention and healing?

II. How Does Domestic Violence Desecrate God's Good Creation and Violate God's Commandment to Love God And Neighbor?

Our theology is grounded in our affirmation of the sovereignty of God. God's sovereign powers of creation and covenant-making mean the whole world is in God's hands. God's sovereign power refers to God's care: ears that hear the cry of the oppressed; eyes that see violation and injustice; hands that shelter and protect, mouths that comfort and confront. God's sovereign power means God has a world-transformative passion for peace and justice.

Thinking theologically about domestic violence compels us to think about power. In its most basic meaning, power is integral to our being; it is a basic element of living. Whenever we breathe or think or act, we make a claim on life, on the world in which we live, and on God who gave us life. Whenever we develop and exercise our basic human capacities, we exercise our power of being. Secondly, power is always relational; it is an ingredient in the character and dynamics of relationships. Therein lies both the promise and the danger of power.

We can better understand the positive and negative possibilities of power by looking at four aspects of our common humanity and the theological understandings that inform them.

A. We have been created to have integrity of body and spirit.

We learn from Scripture that every human being is created in the image of God. The inalienable togetherness of body and spirit is what it means to be a person, a good creation of God. God expects us to respect the dignity of the person, that is to respect the integrity of body and spirit. Our spiritual well-being depends on this connection.

Domestic violence violates the integrity of body and spirit. Whether it be physical, sexual, emotional-psychological, or verbal, abuse is demeaning. It inflicts harm and suffering on the whole person. All too often the Christian community trivializes physical suffering on the grounds that "It's just the body." For God, the body is the temple of the spirit and is to be treated and cherished accordingly.

B. We have been created to be free people.

We have been created to respond freely to God and to one another. In the covenant-making assembly at Shechem, Joshua recounts the history of God's acts of deliverance and providence. After making clear the requirement of faithfulness, he puts the decision to the people gathered: "Choose this day whom you will serve." He asks the question three times, so there can be no question of the people's consent (Josh. 24:1–28). We are created with the capacity to consent to relationships and participate with others in decisions affecting our life together. Our freedom to speak and act, to envision new possibilities and change things, is the basis of our sense of responsibility—and the assumption behind our confession of sin.

Domestic violence violates human freedom. It acts against another's will, often through use of force or threat of force. Children and adults who are abused are denied the right to express their own wants and needs. It is not uncommon for abusers to deny victims the freedom of association, prohibiting them from spending time with friends or from participating in nurturing activities. Through intimidation and silencing, abuse diminishes the power of the victim to make choices.

C. We have been created to be in relationship with God and people.

The biblical witness offers extensive attention to covenantal relationships. God the Creator is preeminently a covenant-maker, the One who creates, sustains, and transforms the people of God. We are created through and for relationships, for love and friendship, for nurturing families, for building communities, for working together with others in productive work, for caregiving and justice-making. Through these covenants we learn to trust the one who takes care of us and the one for whom we care.

Domestic violence violates the most intimate relationships we have. It destroys covenants in which people have promised to treat each other with respect and dignity. It destroys marriages, partnerships, and family ties. Often, too, abusers seek to isolate victims from friends, colleagues, and other church members. The absence of these relationships leaves victims feeling abandoned and isolated.

D. We have been created to rejoice.

The Shorter Catechism begins with the question: "What is the chief end of [humankind]?" The answer is, "Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy God forever." Perhaps the distinctively Christian contribution to our understanding of humanity is the recognition and affirmation that human beings are created for rejoicing.

Domestic violence violates God's plan for joyous living. Amnesty International recognizes domestic violence as a form of terror and torture. The church, as well, should recognize it as such, for it desecrates rejoicing and destroys the capacity for delight.

Domestic violence is always an abuse of power. This violence (whether physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, or verbal; whether perpetrated against children or adults) represents a violation of what it means to be human in the presence of God.

III. Why Should the Church Be Involved in the Issue of Domestic Violence?

A. Biblical principles

Through caregiving individuals and justice-making congregations, victims can seek and find the healing power of God. Four biblical principles can guide us in our efforts to help them.

1. The church is called to be a place of sanctuary.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings, I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. (Ps. 57:1).

The God of the Psalms is a God who provides shelter; God even parts the waters so the Israelites can flee to safety. We, who are created in God's image, are called to share this responsibility for the safety of neighbors and strangers alike (Ex. 22:21; Mark 12:31). The Bible calls for cities of refuge. Historically, churches have been considered places of sanctuary. We should take our sanctuary role seriously and explore its meaning for this issue.

Providing sanctuary to victims of domestic violence means offering a place, sometimes physical space, sometimes emotional space, where they feel safe from the abuser. They need a place where it is safe to cry out and speak the truth, where they can consider alternatives for their future, where they can reconnect with community, and where they can recover.

We are thankful for churches that have become places of shelter and grace; that have partnered with rape crisis centers, battered women's shelters, child and elder abuse prevention programs, and other organizations in their communities; that have become advocates for policies to end domestic violence.

2. The church is called to be an empathetic community.

I have observed the misery of my people . . . I have heard their cry . . . I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them . . . and to bring them . . . to a land flowing with milk and honey. (Ex. 3:7–8a)

Being the church means extending hospitality, welcoming the presence of abused persons and welcoming their cry/complaint of suffering. Too often, even when the church knows about the abuse, members shy away from acknowledging it. Some people feel awkward about approaching the topic; others, assuming the victim will feel shame, believe that saying nothing is the sensitive approach. We must break the silence that often hides abuse. When we allow the silence to be broken, we are practicing hospitality.

For the church, the grace of hospitality is deeply connected with empathy, the power of listening and feeling with another. The narrative of the Exodus begins when God calls on Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery. God's power is, first, the power of empathy. Empathy is required of the human community as well. Again and again, the prophets challenge the people to have eyes to see the misery and ears to hear the cries of the wounded left for dead by the side of the road. Again, the power of the Holy Spirit, the Power present in Pentecost (Acts 2) and in the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), represents a new power of speaking and listening that simultaneously affirms differences and breaks down dividing walls.

We do not, however, break down walls simply by listening and feeling sorry. We must use the power of "hearing-to-speech."2 Hearing-to-speech means paying attention to three aspects of abused persons' stories. They are the pain, fear and anger over the violation experienced; the sometimes ingenious coping skills victims have developed; and the faith that sustains them. Our empathy becomes empowerment for victims/survivors as they bless us with their story, as they find the courage to speak, as they reveal their resourcefulness, and as they witness to the faith that has sustained them.

As pastors and church members welcome abused persons to be fully present among us, we may find it difficult to listen and understand truths that are beyond our experiences. Besides, our culture has little tolerance for complainers or people who allow themselves to be revictimized. Empathy can be still more difficult if the victim is of an ethnicity or class different than the one we are part of. Whether or not we share common experiences of abuse, whether or not the victims and we share cultural heritages, we can practice hospitality by allowing the silence to be broken and by responding to the victim's sense of abandonment and isolation.

3. The church is called to be a covenantal community.

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19).

Ultimately, hospitality leads to covenantal relationships. Having been isolated, the victims of domestic violence need community and solidarity.

We must remember that the covenant between God and the Israelites at Sinai is inseparable from the exodus; it presupposes the liberation from oppression. It was not a covenant between the Israelites and Pharaoh but, rather, a covenant of God that represents the formation of a people who choose and promise to bow down to no other god. biblical covenant-making ought not be invoked to send spouses back into battering and other abusive relationships.

Being in covenant with victims is not just a matter of incorporating them into our way of being. In covenant we open our own life to interruption. Stanley Hauerwas says that churches often fail to fully understand that the welcoming, the hospitality, of baptism involves not only responsibility (the giving of care and nurture) but vulnerability to God, received through this new order. Likewise, ministry with those who experience domestic violence is a ministry of reciprocity. It requires our being vulnerable to another, our being willing to be changed by another.

Covenant relations presuppose responsibility. Sometimes this is expressed in ways that overstate a woman's duty to endure—or single-handedly transform—abusive relationships. But responsibility is increasingly recognized as the key to abusers' capacities to change. Don Shriver, a Presbyterian minister and president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York, argues, "Forgiveness begins with memory suffused with moral judgment . . . a moral judgment of wrong, injustice, and injury." Truth-telling, together with a judgment of wrong-doing, is basic. Accepting responsibility is key. This is the insight—and it is a theologically grounded insight—at the heart of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Abusers are notoriously reluctant to acknowledge responsibility for their actions. Until they do, there is no healing for them nor safety for the abused.

Of course, this covenant tradition has been used against women, as if covenantal fidelity means maintaining a marriage at any cost. Over against this interpretation, we must explore whether the idea of covenant might suggest some important dimensions of justice for women, and between women and men in situations of domestic violence.

In covenant we commit ourselves and our resources. At the same time we open ourselves to being changed and challenged, for we are learning from those who have been abused as well as caring for them.

4. The church is called to be a healing community.

"You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy" (Ps. 30:11, NRSV).

Domestic violence can be life-threatening; it is an act of terror. Violence within the family betrays our most basic relationships. It is a violation of the integrity of body and spirit; it destroys trust, well-being, connection, joy. It isolates as it desecrates. For persons of faith, this is a spiritual crisis as well as a physical or emotional one.

Yet the testimony of persons who have been abused is this: healing happens. But healing is not instantaneous. It is hard work. It is spiritual work.

B. Healing as transformation

As the victim engages in this spiritual struggle of life-death proportions, the church community offers hope. It continuously reminds the victim in word and deed that God's plan is for all to have abundant life. The church witnesses to God's steadfast and empowering love as it offers presence and patience in the victim/survivors hard work of remembering, mourning, and forging a renewed sense of self as a person of integrity, dignity, worth, and future. In a church that has courageously broken the silence, survivors who have found healing feel free to share their stories, which in turn become powerful resources of hope for those who do not yet see possibilities for their own lives.

As the abuser seeks healing, the church community offers hope, the hope of transformation through accountability. For the abuser, healing happens not with an early and easy forgiveness but with the struggle to acknowledge accountability for the abuse of power. Remembering the words of the prophet Nathan to King David: "You are the man," the church community may be called to confront even as it supports the journey from violence and denial to responsibility for turning to a new way of life. The church witnesses to Jesus Christ's ministry of grace and judgment as it struggles in its own life to model the new life to which Jesus' disciples are called. As it does so, it offers to others the hope that change is possible. For the abuser, accepting responsibility becomes a path to healing, to reclaiming one's self as a person of integrity, dignity, worth, and future.

Healing happens as those who have been abused participate in communities of mutual nurture. It does not come in a month, not even in a year or two. For many victims it is a lifelong struggle. Therefore, the church, too must be willing to offer nurture and hope for however long it takes.

The church can be a healing community when preaching and teaching are seen through the eyes of the victim/survivor. For example, a sermon on forgiveness can be traumatic (and premature) for someone coming out of an abusive relationship. In healing faith communities pastors preach of God's love for people who are suffering; congregations and individuals lift up prayers on behalf of those who hurt and sing hymns of comfort and assurance.

Many survivors have testified to the importance healing rituals have played in their lives. For some these have been personalized services in which the abuse has been named and the victim blessed. For others they have been services of cleansing and prayer.

Ultimately the power of God is the power of turning mourning into dancing. Not that we join with the survivor in one then the other. No, healing occurs when mourning and dancing embrace, when we are able to dance as we mourn. While dancing is an energy that affirms the integrity of one's own being and life plans, it is also the energy to work with others for justice. Dancing refers to the affirmation that joy has returned.

Indeed healing warrants celebration, for we are witnessing transformation.

C. Healing and forgiveness

In situations of domestic violence the doctrine of forgiveness has often become a part of the problem rather than part of the solution because forgiveness is automatically and unconditionally given to everyone without the work of repentance and restitution. For example, abusers have developed a reputation for going to their pastors after disclosure of their violence and asking for prayers and forgiveness. In too many cases, pastors are willing to engage in this empty ritual and send the abuser back to the family to continue his terror. As a result, many survivors have rejected forgiveness as an important part of their healing process. Rather than forgiveness as the restoration of a relationship with God, forgiveness has become a tool of abuse and stigma. Survivors who are angry are frequently told to stay out of the church until they are willing to forgive. Many survivors have left the church for their own spiritual health, while the men who abused them continue to serve in leadership positions, having interpreted the church's forgiveness as wiping clean all memories of the past.

Yet, in spite of this false theology of forgiveness, Christian survivors are offering a reinterpretation of the true meaning of forgiveness. Rejecting forgiveness as forgetting, as false reconciliation, as covering up the past, as an obligation laid on those who are vulnerable, some survivors are seeing forgiveness as one of the last steps in the healing process. After a former victim is safe from violence, after she has grieved the many losses caused by her experiences of violence, after she has reorganized her life to the way she wants it to be, after she has gained inner strength and a relationship with God, then the work of forgiveness can be considered.

For the victim, forgiveness is letting go of the immediacy of the trauma, the memory of which continues to terrorize the victim and limit possibilities. The memory is the lens through with the world is viewed. Forgiving involves putting that lens aside but keeping it close at hand. It is the choice to no longer allow the memory of the abuse to continue to abuse. But this step of healing must be carried out according to the victim's timetable.

In this context, forgiveness is redefined as an aspect of healing, not only inner healing of the spirituality of the survivor, but also healing of the relational web that includes other people. Violence rends God's web of relational love that holds people together. Forgiveness as healing creates new webs of relational love through solidarity between victim/survivors and their advocates. This reinterpretation of forgiveness moves beyond a naive desire for forgetting and overlooking that many offenders wish for but is often reabusive for the survivor. In this context, forgiveness does not mean one-to-one reconciliation, but it means that the internalized hatred that resulted from the violence has been overcome in the loving spirit of the survivor. Healing has progressed to a spiritual depth where hatred of abusers is no longer the primary force in one's life.

1. The church is called to be a place of grace.

The church proclaims God's steadfast and gracious love. God's grace is expressed in God's care—ears that hear the cry of the oppressed; eyes that see violation and injustice; hands that shelter and deliver; smell that turns away from oppression-coverup sacrifices; tongue that comforts and commands to act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly. God's grace is expressed as a love that will not let us go and the promise that nothing, no one, stands beyond the reach of God's gracious love. God's grace is expressed in God's passion for justice and peace in the world of God's creation. In its proclamation, the church becomes a place of grace.

The church is most deeply itself at prayer. In its cry of lament and its song of praise, the church becomes a place of grace. The Psalms, especially the Psalms of lament, are an insightful and powerful resource in biblically based work to end and heal domestic violence. They are the voice of people who cry out, who bring their pain, anger, and confusion to God. They reveal an active rather then a submissive people who speak up, try to change God's mind, and thus the situation in which they find themselves. They model a people who claim the hope and joy of the covenant-relation with God. They chant for survival, and they sing.

2. The church is called to be an advisor and advocate to the state for the welfare of the weak and vulnerable.

The recently published Presbyterian Social Witness Policy Compilation is testimony to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s historic commitment to "speak truth to power" and to stand with and speak on behalf of the weak and vulnerable on a wide range of challenges to our common life. In this document, we have called upon the previous documents of the church on issues of domestic violence as well as Peacemaking: The Believers' Calling. This witness is grounded in the church's reading of the biblical prophets and the ministry of Jesus Christ; it continues and builds on the witness of the church as every generation responds anew to ancient and newborn injustices and abuses of power. A Brief Statement of Faith reminds us that "the Spirit gives us courage . . . to unmask idolatries in Church and culture" (The Book of Confessions, 10.4).

Such advocacy to public institutions is undertaken not only with careful study but also with care for the whole church. Thus this policy statement and rationale embody the commitment of the church to processes of churchwide cooperation, consultation, and accountability deeply rooted in the Reformed Tradition's understanding of the church as a community of discernment (Why and How the Church Makes a Social Policy Witness, 1994).

Healing domestic violence requires justicemaking and peacemaking. Domestic violence is systemic; it affects every area of life–and the weak and vulnerable are its especial targets. Thus it is imperative to develop public processes that protect them and to change the social conditions that render them vulnerable and deny them recourse to effective help. It is imperative to establish processes that promote the accountability of the abuser. The covenantal nature of life leads to us to work to restore the human dignity and well-being of persons and communities. We seek reconciliation characterized by love and justice, truth and peace: shalom. But, as Genevieve Jacques observes, there can be "no reconciliation without transformation."3 Drawing on the experience of South Africa, the practice of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the wisdom of Mandela, she describes reconciliation as multiple processes of transformation: personal and communal, spiritual and moral, social and political.4 So we are called to advise and advocate in the public realm. We are called to promote "social righteousness."

Finally, we affirm God's sovereign powers of creating and covenanting; the whole world is in God's hands. Thus we are emboldened to speak not only to the church but to governing authorities and all people of conscience.

IV. Our Tradition

A Brief Statement of Faith reminds all Presbyterians that in sovereign love, God created the world good. Our understanding of God's intentions for this world is that God in Jesus Christ has given the gift of abundant life to all. Our other statements of faith call us to unmask idolatry; our Sunday worship includes a confession of sin; the ritual of baptism includes the renunciation of evil. Indeed, the interlocking systems of suffering and oppression require such an analysis.

The church has a tradition that calls for hospitality to the widow, the orphan, and the stranger. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb. 13:2, NRSV). For centuries the church has been offering care and nurture not only to friends but also to strangers, not only to the healthy but also to the sick, not only to the influential but also to the least of these. We know that Jesus, who was himself the guest, turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana, thus offering his host a blessing. So, too, the church has found that whether serving the stranger in a hospital or at Eucharist, hospitality is not a burden to be taken on but a blessing, for like Jesus, the guest becomes the host. Ultimately we receive more from the guest than we have given.

On the issue of domestic violence, we are guided by the work of the church in the wider sphere of political action and cultural change. The Presbyterian Church and its ecumenical partners have been involved in a sustained and imaginative engagement with peacemaking, nonviolent strategies of conflict-resolution, and justicemaking. These have included concern for domestic violence as well as international conflicts.

The covenant tradition also directs us. This tradition offers a model for families and other domestic relationships. In 1999 the Presbyterian Church, in Building Community Among Strangers, affirmed "that Jesus Christ has the power to guide the churches, both national and local, in the goal of affirming equality between men and women" (Recommendation 4). It is an equality grounded in the biblical creation account, articulated in the A Brief Statement of Faith, "In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God's image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community" (The Book of Confessions, 10.3).

We know too well that people—some from our congregations, some from the world beyond our church doors—are hurting. This realization is at the heart of the call for the policy statement. In the past the church has acknowledged this pain in its midst and has responded by developing written policies and resources: Study Paper on Family Violence (1991); Pornography: Far from the Song of Songs (1988); Striking Terror No More: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence (1997); and, Surely Heed Their Cries (1993). The most recent attempt at developing a denominational resource was the national satellite telecast produced and sponsored by the Presbyterian Men of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The teleconference focused on "Men and Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women." It was received directly by approximately sixty downlinks and viewed by approximately two thousand people. The church is in a good position, perhaps more than any other institution, to provide these kinds of educational resources within its comprehensive educational ministry. Thus, it can be a primary means of the prevention of domestic violence or violence in the family.

The church is proclaiming the gospel when it offers an alternative to the generational cycle of abuse in families and relationships.

V. What Is Our Confession?

Our tradition calls us to confess our sin and acknowledge our complicity.

As a people who believe that God intends for all to live with integrity of body and spirit, in freedom, in relationships, and in joy, we confess that, unlike the Good Samaritan, we have not always followed the rocky path down into the ravine where our neighbor lies injured. God calls us to make a difference in the world.

We confess that we have not always heeded the victims/survivors' cries for help. Too often, we have tossed their pain back at them, claiming they have brought the problem on themselves. We have underestimated the physical and emotional damage done, often encouraging an abused spouse, because of the sanctity of marriage, to stay in a destructive relationship. Not wanting to get involved, we have turned our face rather than look at a child's bruises or frightened looks. Believing an older person to be no longer of sound mind, we have ignored the complaint of abuse. God calls the church to be a place of refuge, a sanctuary where all victims are heard and heeded, seen and acknowledged, a place of healing and help.

We confess that we have too often offered the perpetrator/abuser cheap grace. Too quickly we have accepted the abuser's apology and advised the victim to "forgive and forget," "put it all behind you." In doing so we have stood in the way of genuine remorse that might lead the perpetrator to seek help and wholeness. God calls the church to name sin and thereby to open the possibility of reform and renewal.

We acknowledge that we have not challenged a society that legitimates abuse through the portrayals of women and children as objects in entertainment (movies, videos, television) and in advertisements. God calls the church to remember and proclaim that we are created in the image of God, and that image is to be honored.

We acknowledge that throughout history the theology of the church has been replete with representations of woman as the cause of sin, deserving of her demise, secondary in nature, needing to be controlled. This understanding has fostered the oppression and abuse of women. God calls the church to acknowledge the equality and partnership manifest in creation.

We acknowledge that we have misused the Holy Scriptures. We have emphasized the role of women to be subject to husbands, children to obey parents. We have distorted the teaching of the gospel that Christians are called to share in the cross of Christ in ways that legitimate the destruction of the lives of many women (especially in the context of marriage), children and other vulnerable people.

Having confessed our complicity, the PC(USA) affirms God's gift of abundant life in Jesus Christ to all. It promotes the respect and human dignity of all persons and through God's love and grace, their right to safety, nurture, care, and freedom from abuse and violence. The church names all forms of domestic violence as sin and commits to work for their eradication. The church commits itself to listen to the stories of the victims of spouse/partner abuse, child abuse, teen violence, date rape and sexual assault, elderly who are abused by their children or caregivers, children who are abused by siblings, those who because of their disability are particularly vulnerable to abuse—all whose bodies and souls are violated. The church further commits itself and its resources to provide leadership in creating a just and compassionate society that promotes healing and works for systemic change so that domestic violence is prevented.

VI. What Is Domestic Violence?

While the church's concern for violence extends across oceans and continents, the policy we recommend to the 213th General Assembly (2001) focuses on domestic violence in the United States. In developing definitions of terms related to our policy recommendations, the Task Force relies on and in this section quotes from materials developed by the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (CPSDV) in Seattle, Washington.

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behavior, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners or vulnerable family members. In abusive relationships, perpetrators use their power in ways that inflict harm on others for the perpetrators' own need for power and control.

Violence can take many forms. Among the most common are physical, emotional (also known as psychological maltreatment), sexual, and neglectful. Physical abuse is the use of brute force, such as hitting, biting, kicking, slapping, burning or scalding, to damage a person's body. The weapon may be a fist, a knife, a gun, or other object. Physical abuse generally involves willful acts by a perpetrator, resulting in injury to the victim; however, it may also result when the perpetrator's intent is not to injure or harm the victim, as in corporal punishment.

I have holes in my shoes and pants. The kids at school say I'm stupid. My Dad drinks up the money. He beats me and my brother when he drinks. The fights are so loud in our house between my Mom and Dad that I never get my homework finished. I feel scared to be at home. Why can't I have a normal family like other kids?

A Child Abuse Victim

Emotional abuse is an attempt to control or intimidate a vulnerable person. Though it is often used in combination with physical abuse, it can be inflicted without the perpetrator ever touching the body. This form of abuse generally involves verbal behavior in which a perpetrator attacks the victim's self-esteem and social competence, as in making comments with the intent of ridiculing, insulting, threatening, or belittling the victim. Nonverbal forms of emotional abuse include isolating a victim from family and peers; manipulating a person in ways that will harm him/her; exploiting a victim, such as encouraging a child or partner to participate in illegal or dysfunctional behavior; torturing or killing a victim's pet; or destroying a victim's personal property. Emotional abuse is difficult to document for legal purposes because of the absence of physical evidence; however, research identifies emotional abuse as the core component and major destructive force in all types of abuse.

Sexual abuse is defined as a perpetrator's use of a victim for sexual gratification. It may occur on a contact basis, such as involving the use of physical force (beating someone up, holding them down), the threat of force (such as the use of a gun or a weapon), or other forms of effective coercion. Incest is sexual contact between a parent figure or a sibling, which usually involves physical or psychological coercion. Sexual abuse may also occur on a noncontact basis, as when the abuser forces the victim to watch a sexual act.

Neglect, too, is a form of abuse. It involves the parents' or caretakers' failure to provide physical and emotional needs. Child neglect may involve "abandonment, refusal to seek treatment for illness, inadequate supervision, health hazards in the home, ignoring a child's need for contact . . . keeping a child home from school repeatedly without cause." The elderly, too, experience domestic violence through neglect, as do persons with disabilities.

VII. Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence?

Only within the past three decades has domestic violence become a societal concern. Child abuse was brought to public attention in the 1970's through a developing awareness of the problem, culminating in the passage in 1974 of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. In the seventies, as well as in the subsequent decade, attention also focused on other types of domestic violence: spouse abuse, elder abuse, sibling abuse and dating violence. Following the completion of two national studies of violence in American families, known as the National Family Violence Survey (1975) and the National Family Violence Resurvey (1985), the problem of violence in American families became the concern of mental health professionals, legislators and social scientists. The results of the initial study were published in a book, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. The title of this book aptly describes how domestic violence has been viewed in society; namely, that it is the private business of the family or those involved and the concern of no one else, including the church. However, the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, as well as subsequent legislation relating to the other types of domestic violence, brought the subject out into the open.

When we look at statistics related to domestic violence, we know that they represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many instances of domestic violence, such as verbal battering or partner rape, are often not recognized as abuse and go unreported. Other instances go unreported. Victims may blame themselves for the violence; they may fear yet harsher reprisals; or they may believe perpetrators' promises that they will never again abuse.

While we cannot know exactly how many cases of abuse occur, we do know that domestic violence is of epidemic proportions. Its victims include children, youth, adults, and the elderly of every race, class, or religious affiliation. Domestic violence occurs in all types of family configurations and in every region of the United States, whether urban, suburban, or rural. There is no evading the fact, however, that domestic violence is most frequently directed against: children, women, the elderly, and the disabled.

The task force draws on resources of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, Seattle, Washington, for some of the definitions that follow.

A. Child abuse

Child abuse refers to deliberate harmful actions by an adult, generally a parent or caregiver.

In 1998, the latest year in which statistical data for child abuse has been compiled and published, 3,154,000 cases (physical, emotional and sexual) were reported. This means that approximately 46 out of every 1,000 U.S. children were victims of child abuse that year. In homes where partner abuse occurs, children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused.5

40–60 percent of men who abuse women also abuse children.6
A form of physical abuse to which infants are often subjected is shaking, called shaken baby syndrome. A frustrated parent or caregiver may shake an infant after long periods of crying, especially when the child does not respond to attempts to console. Because of a heavy head and weak neck muscles, infants who are shaken are vulnerable to head injury.

Children with psychological disabilities, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, are frequent targets of abuse. Not understanding that their children's hyperactivity and impulsivity are neurological in origin, parents often respond out of their own frustration. Parents who have high aspirations for their children may also, in cases where a learning disability exists, express their frustration through verbal as well as physical battering.

Sexual abuse, even more than other forms of child abuse, is usually not reported to authorities. The sexual abuse of children may or may not involve contact. In either situation the perpetrator is a person with more power, either a teenager or adult. In a nationwide sample of 2,626 adult men and women surveyed by telephone, 38 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men said they had been sexually abused as children. The median age for the abuse was approximately 9 years, with boys more likely to be abused by strangers, girls by family members. One-half of the reported perpetrators were authority figures in the children's lives.7

Tom, age 28, lived with his girlfriend Jane and her three-year-old child. He would babysit the child in the evening while Jane worked as a waitress. A pediatrician noted during an examination of the child that she appeared to have been sexually molested. An investigation by Child Protective Services revealed that Tom had been sexually molesting the child.

A Perpetrator of Child Abuse

Corporal punishment can become abusive, especially when it is excessive. In fact, an abusive parent/caregiver will often defend physical abuse by claiming its purpose was to teach a lesson or to punish. Corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children is risky and needs further study. We do know, however, that it is abusive when injury occurs, when the adult's issue is power and control rather than love and guidance, when the adult's behavior is at the same time psychologically damaging, and when the punishment is motivated primarily by anger.

B. Spouse/partner abuse

Spouse/partner abuse as a pattern of violent and coercive behavior exercised by one adult over another. "It is not a marital conflict . . . [or] a lovers' quarrel" (CPSDV). It occurs in intimate relationships between married couples, couples who are cohabiting, and between gay and lesbian partners. Although men are also victims of domestic violence, 95 percent of victims are women.

We know that

nearly one in three women experience at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood;8

during 1994, 21 percent of all violent victimizations against women were committed by an intimate, but only 4 percent of violent victimizations against men were committed by a woman;9

in the United States, a woman is more likely to be assaulted, injured, or raped by a male partner than by any other type of assailant;

between 15 percent and 25 percent of pregnant women are battered;

nearly half (48 percent) of all incidents of violence against women are not reported to the police;

once a woman has been abused by a spouse/partner, her risk of being revictimized is high;10 and

there are at least 4 million reported incidents of domestic violence against women every year;11
The percentage of couples reporting abuse is between one and a half and two times greater among cohabiting couples than among married couples. Data suggest that higher levels of marital violence are found among military men as compared to their civilian counterparts.

My husband searches my purse and watches me every minute. He drives me to work and picks me up. If I go anywhere without calling him at work and telling him I am leaving the house, he immediately suspects I am having an affair. If I disobey any of the rules he has set under which I must operate, I am in danger of being beaten. It has happened often.

A Spouse/partner Abuse Survivor

Many women are killed by intimate partners. Browne and Williams 12 using Supplementary Homicide Report data filed between 1976 and 1987, found that the deaths of 38,649 individuals age 16 and over during this period of time were the result of one partner killing another. This included married, common-law, divorced, and dating partners. Sixty-one percent of these victims were women who were killed by male partners; 39 percent were men killed by a female partner. Women in the United States are more likely to be killed by their male partners than by all other categories of deaths by killing combined. More than half of all women murdered in the United States between 1980 and 1985 (52 percent) were victims of homicide by a partner.13

Domestic violence occurs within same sex relationships with the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships. The prevalence of domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples is approximately 25–33 percent.14 While same sex battering mirrors heterosexual battering both in type and prevalence, its victims receive fewer protections. Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same sex victims; twenty-one states have sodomy laws that may require same sex victims to confess to a crime in order to prove they are in a domestic relationship. While same sex batterers use forms of abuse similar to those of heterosexual batterers, they have an additional weapon—the threat of "outing" their partner to family, friends, employers or community.

Sexual abuse in spouse/partner abuse is referred to as marital rape. In cases of marital rape the abuser demands sexual gratification without the intimate partner's consent.

Domestic violence may affect a woman's ability to financially support herself and her children, sometimes placing families in the position of seeking welfare. Welfare studies show that abused women do seek employment, but are often unable to keep a job. The abuser may prevent them from going to work, or physical and emotional injury may make it impossible for them to keep a job. Between one- and two-thirds of welfare recipients report having suffered domestic violence at some point in their adult lives; between 15–32 percent report current domestic victimization.15 When victims are at work, they are not necessarily any safer than they would be at home, for the abusers know where to find them. In fact, domestic violence is the leading cause for women killed in the workplace. The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 1994 that each year 13,000 acts of domestic violence are perpetrated against women in their workplace.

C. Elder abuse

Although the tendency may exist to define elder abuse only in terms of physical maltreatment, elder abuse must be conceptualized more broadly. Elder abuse generally is defined as physical, sexual, emotional or psychological, and financial abuse. Three types of elder neglect also occur: passive neglect, active neglect, and self-neglect.

Physical abuse of the elderly implies hitting, slapping, punching, pushing, shaking, biting, pulling hair, forcefeeding, and other willful acts that may result in bruises, lacerations, fractures, or any other types of physical injury. Physical abuse in elderly marital partners may be a continuation of abuse that has occurred throughout the marital relationship or more recently occurring because of physical or mental illness.

Mrs. G., age 78, was cared for by her son, a banker who was unmarried and lived with her. In his frustration of dealing with her mental confusion and her failure to take her medications in the proper dosage and at the appropriate time, on occasion he would slap his mother as if he were disciplining a small child. One day a neighbor visiting Mrs. G. noted severe bruises on her arm. When the neighbor learned they had been inflicted by Mrs. G.'s son, the neighbor reported him to Adult Protective Services.

An Elder Abuse Victim/survivor

Although sexual abuse is not as prevalent with the elderly as it is with children, it does occur. Sexual abuse of the elderly is defined as engaging in sexual acts with an elderly person by means of force, threat of force, or without consent, including forcing an elderly person to perform sexual acts on the perpetrator.

Emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of elder abuse and includes name-calling, derogatory comments, the use of insults, harassment, and threats or speaking to an elderly person in a childish or demeaning manner. Withholding affection, failing to provide a sense of security and the caregiver refusing to allow an elderly person access to family members and friends may also be considered emotional abuse.

Mr. S., a ninety-year-old widow lived with his son and daughter-in-law following the death of his wife. Mr. S. had difficulty controlling his bladder and frequently would soil his bed sheets or the chair on which he sat. This was upsetting to his daughter-in-law who would resort to name-calling.

An Elder Abuse Victim/survivor

Financial abuse is defined as the misappropriation or stealing of an elderly person's finances or personal possessions. The elderly can be victimized financially by family members, individuals hired as caregivers, or by companies taking advantage of a potential elderly customer. This form of abuse can have permanently devastating effects because it impacts on the elderly person's financial status that subsequently may effects the individual's future care. The elderly often are susceptible to financial abuse from businesses because of impaired cognitive functioning or in the case of elderly widows where their husbands handled the finances and they are unfamiliar with their financial status.

Mrs. Z., age 87, continued to live in her home following the death of her husband. One day a furnace salesman called on her and indicated he would give her furnace a free inspection. After inspecting the furnace, the salesman spoke with alarm to Mrs. Z. about the dangerous condition of the furnace. Since winter was approaching, Mrs. Z. had the salesman replace the furnace. A few weeks later Mrs. Z.'s son visited his mother. When he learned about the new furnace, he recalled it had been replaced two years prior and had been inspected yearly by the company that had installed the furnace. A call to the company that installed the furnace that had been replaced revealed it was in perfect working condition at the time of the last inspection.

An Elder Abuse Victim/Survivor

D. Elder neglect defined

Neglect is also a serious problem for the elderly and may be seen in the following forms: passive neglect, active neglect, and self-neglect. Passive neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation. Abandoning a person or not providing food or health-related services are examples. Passive neglect generally is not a conscious or intentional act on the part of the caregiver. Rather, it often occurs when a caregiver is not aware of community sources that may aid the elderly person in need or disputes the value of prescribed services.

Jane's elderly mother recently moved in to live with Jane, a busy executive. Jane's mother complained repeatedly about her loneliness while Jane was away during the day or on business trips outside the city. Although a senior citizen center was available in the community, Jane never took the time to explore this option as a resource for her mother to meet other persons her age.

An Elder Neglect Victim/survivor

Active neglect is the conscious and intentional withholding of care an elderly person needs, such as supplying proper nutrition, the meeting of toileting needs, treatment for physical conditions, and the use of restraints.

Mr. H. hired a daytime housekeeper to help Mr. H.'s elderly mother who lived in a neighboring city and was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Mr. H. was not aware of the alcohol problem the housekeeper had when he hired her. Consequently, the housekeeper failed to cook nutritious meals for Mr. H's mother and often would restrain her in a chair for long periods of time.

An Elder Neglect Victim/survivor

In self-neglect, there are no caregivers as perpetrators; rather, elderly persons are neglecting themselves. Self-neglect is an unfortunate label for a condition affecting the elderly because it implies willful self-degradation or destruction. Self-neglect, however, is hardly ever willful but, rather the result of elderly persons being unable to care for themselves because of depleted physical or social resources.

Mrs. W. visited her elderly mother who lived over a thousand miles from her. Although she maintained regular telephone contact with her mother, it was not until she visited her personally that she became aware of her mother's deteriorating physical and mental condition and her inability to function independently.

An Elder Neglect Victim/survivor

E. Extent of elder abuse

As with other types of family violence, statistical data cited for elder abuse represent only a fraction of the actual number of incidents. Approximately only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse is ever reported because of the dependency of elderly victims on their caregivers and the lack of knowledge about the reporting of abuse. The occurrence of elder abuse varies among cultural groups. A study reported by the National Center on Elder abuse found that 66.4 percent of the victims were white, 18.7 were African American and 10 percent were Hispanic. Other groups made up less than one percent of the total number.

F. Sibling abuse

Sibling abuse is the abuse of one sibling by another. It may be viewed as sibling rivalry that has escalated out of control. While all siblings fight and call each other names, sibling rivalry can become abusive. Critical factors in distinguishing sibling rivalry from sibling abuse include if the behavior occurs repeatedly and if one child is a victim of the other.

Sibling abuse occurs in three forms, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Physical abuse is defined as willful acts of one sibling against another resulting in physical injury such as slapping, hitting, biting, kicking, or more violent behavior that may include the use of an instrument, such as a stick, bat, gun, or knife.

Mrs. J., a 45 year old married woman on looking back at her childhood reported to a friend, "I can't ever remember not being physically abused by my brother. He beat on me ever day. It was just part of existing to me. He would punch, pinch, and kick me. There were times that he pulled out my hair. At times he would use anything else close to hit me.

A Sibling Abuse Victim/survivor

Sibling emotional abuse, also referred to as psychological maltreatment, may be defined as verbal attacks of one sibling toward another including name-calling, ridiculing, insulting, degrading or threatening another sibling. Also included in the definition of emotional abuse are the exacerbation of a fear that a sibling may have and the destruction of a sibling's personal property, such as deliberately destroying a prized possession or pet. A sibling abuse survivor describes her emotional abuse:

When I was growing up, my older brother would constantly taunt me. He continually made fun of my appearance—every aspect of it—and everything I did. He always called me names. My childhood was a nightmare.

A Sibling Abuse Victim/survivor

The sexual abuse of one sibling by another includes inappropriate sexual contact, such as unwanted touching, fondling, indecent exposure, attempted penetration, intercourse, rape or sodomy between siblings. A victim of sexual abuse from an older brother as a child describes what she experienced:

When I was a very small child, my older brother started fondling me. As I grew older it got worse.

A Sibling Abuse Victim/survivor

G. Extent of the problem

Very little statistical data on sibling abuse exists, except for incidents of incest, because of the tendency of parents to excuse abusive behavior between siblings as sibling rivalry and the reluctance of parents to press charges against their children if an abusive incident occurs. However, several studies indicate the problem may be more widespread than thought.

In a nationwide survey of 2,143 American families on violence among family members, the researchers concluded that sibling violence occurs more frequently than either parent-child or husband-wife violence. This research indicated that 53 out of every 100 children per year attack a brother or sister. Likewise, findings from studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicated 138,000 children age 3 to 17 used a weapon on a sibling over a one-year period. Other researchers who have studied sibling violence conclude that sibling abuse is the most prevalent and accepted form of family violence in America that has largely been ignored. What is being referred to here is the physical abuse of one sibling by another. Even more serious is emotional abuse. Few cases of emotional abuse ever appear in court because of the absence of physical evidence making it difficult to substantiate the abuse. Regarding sexual abuse between siblings, using a randomly selected sample of 930 women, a researcher found that 16 percent (152) women reported having had at least one experience of sexual abuse from a sibling or close relative.

H. Dating violence

Dating violence, as the term indicates, is abuse that occurs in the context of a dating relationship. Studies involving individuals of dating age indicate that by the age of 20, one-third of all young women will experience dating violence.

He was always so nice to me when we would go out together with friends, However, the second time we went out alone, he became very aggressive when we were watching TV in my apartment. He forced himself on me. I didn't want sex. I tried to say "No" but I saw how angry he became. I was really afraid of him.

A Dating Violence Survivor

Statistical data on this type of violence are difficult to obtain because most incidents take place in private and are never reported. Both males and females appear to engage in dating violence, with females carrying out less dangerous forms.

Teen dating abuse, like adult spouse/partner abuse, is about power and a desire to control. Despite many other similarities, several conditions differentiate the abuse experienced by adult and teens. "The first and foremost contributing factor to teen violence is adolescent reliance on peer approval. As a result many teens judge acceptable behavior and sex roles based on how these are interpreted by their peer groups."16 Secondly, a lack of experience in dating and in relationships adds to adolescent confusion. When it comes to love and relationships, the majority of teens are idealists. This has a number of implications. For example, an adolescent abuser's excessive jealousy and possessiveness is frequently romanticized by a young victim who misconstrues her partner's demands as proof of passion. Teen abusers justify the use of violence and control tactics as acts of love.

Teens are extremely reluctant to confide in adults or authority figures. Many fear their concerns about relationships will be ignored, belittled, or ridiculed because adults tend to underestimate the intensity of teen relationships. Other teens believe parental or adult intervention will result in the loss of independence or trust.

In many situations, pregnancy may be both the result of abuse and grounds for further abuse. In forcing sex upon a young woman, the abuser may refuse to use birth control. Pregnancy then creates a number of circumstances that increase her vulnerability. Twenty-six percent of pregnant teens reported being physically abused by their boyfriend. About half of them said the battering began or intensified after he learned of the pregnancy.17

I. Abuse of physically disabled persons

If violence and abuse are uses of power that inflict harm on others for the perpetrator's own ends, then it is fairly self-evident that those who have less power as a result of disabilities are more vulnerable to becoming victims simply because they have less power to protect themselves. Physically disabled persons' dependence on others (to varying degrees) makes many ready targets of abuse. Disabled children, in particular, thinking abuse is normal, often will not recognize it when it occurs, or they will assume it is their fault, that they deserve it.

Individuals who are mentally disabled are particularly at risk of being abused. Not only are they more vulnerable to abuse, but after abuse they often face further re-victimization. For example, the testimony of a mentally disabled person is seldom admissible in court without a corroborating witness.

Those with disabilities—physical, mental, or psychological—are especially limited in finding an alternative to the abusive situation, for they have had fewer opportunities for educational and economic security. Many disabled persons stay in the abusive relationships, convinced that living with the abuse is far better than being homeless, returning to a family that no longer wants them, or being institutionalized.

Some church people would like to believe that domestic violence occurs in the lives of other people, that the message of justice and love insulates Christians from such offenses. However, such form of wishful thinking does not match the facts. The prevalence of all these forms of violence are well documented both in society and among church families. Families within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are not exempted from the forms of violence under discussion. In the many months that the Task Force met and prepared this paper, we have heard reports of abuse in Presbyterian Church families:

A pastor murdered his wife; a man working for the Presbyterian Foundation committed suicide after attempting to kill his ex-female friend and her new male friend.

VIII. How Does Culture Impact Abuse?

Domestic violence cuts across all cultural, social, religious, and economic lines. Yet women in some circumstances face more obstacles than men when trying to leave their abusers, seek help, or report the abuse to authorities. For example, women of color may live in communities where the police are not trusted. After seeing their sons and intimate partners unjustly arrested in other situations, they may adopt a protective response toward their male partners and decide not to report child or spouse/partner abuse. Because they have been treated unfairly by white institutions, they may resist turning to social service providers for help. The possibility of abuse within such institutions needs to be addressed. Therefore, when doing advocacy work with survivors, it is important to keep cultural differences in mind. This may mean participating in services that are created by and for a particular population.

Among undocumented immigrant women domestic violence may be more dangerous, due to their having less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens. According to Orloff et al, cultural and language barriers, along with fear of deportation, prevent many from reporting abuse to the authorities. A battered woman who is not a legal resident, or whose immigration status depends on her partner, is isolated by cultural dynamics, which may prevent her from leaving her husband or seeking assistance from the legal system. The abuser may use her immigrant status as a means of abusing her, by threatening to report her for deportation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If she is undocumented, her susceptibility to coercion is heightened. In addition, immigrant victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system would not be helpful to them.18

Latina women, according to Myrna Zambrano, may hesitate to call police or seek services because they are not accustomed to revealing their feelings to outsiders. Furthermore, they often accept their destiny with resignation, accepting their family life as being the way God wants it to be.19 For those who fled war-torn or oppressive countries, the trauma of earlier experiences adds to their vulnerability. For example, they may fear calling on law enforcement for help or talking to others because of past experiences with informers.

Women from parts of Asia may be unwilling to break their silence about abuse for fear that they might lose the support of their extended family and community. Shame of their victimization and fear of losing face in the community keep them from sharing their experience of abuse.

Whereas, age, race/ethnicity are not indicators of who is likely to be affected by spouse/partner abuse, gender is. Because 90–95 percent of spouse/partner abuse victims are women and as many as 95 percent of spouse/partner abusers are male, a feminine pronoun is usually used to refer to victims of domestic violence. Much of female violence is committed in self defense and inflicts less injury than male violence. Male perpetrators are four times more likely to use lethal violence than females.20

Intimate partner abuse and dating violence stem largely from the unequal power between partners. The use of violence in these relationships is particularly reinforced by sexism and cultural notions of male supremacy. Although relationships between women and men take on various forms in various cultures, the end result is that women as a group are in a subordinate, often dependent position relative to men as a group.

IX. What Are the Long-term Effects of Abuse?

A. What survivors report

Long after the verbal assaults go silent, long after the cuts and bruises fade from sight, and long after broken bones mend, the dreadful after-effects of living in terror can plague survivors for months, years, the rest of their lives.

Survivors will continue to feel profound emotions, which to others appear irrational. The fear they felt in childhood or in an adult relationship can lead to lifelong anxiety, often manifested in sleeplessness, nightmares, irritability, and social anxiety. Convinced that something else terrible is going to happen, they become hyper vigilant. It becomes impossible for them to relax and enjoy life.

Survivors have trouble managing their rage. When they were in the abusive situation, they did not dare express their anger for fear the abuser would respond with even more violence. Because they long had to push the rage into their unconscious, where it simmered, the smallest frustrations of their needs and desires can trigger an intense reaction. Survivors may lash out at the wrong person just because that person happens to be there.

A sense of shame stays with survivors long after the abuse has ended. They feel shame that they lost control over their lives, that they allowed their inherent dignity to be taken from them. Those who repeatedly enter other abusive relationships experience still more shame. (It is often, psychically speaking, easier to repeat the past than to work through it.) Feelings of unworthiness will continue to plague them.

Children commonly feel guilt, even though their abusers are the guilty ones. Too undeveloped to understand what is happening to them, they uncritically accept the abusive parent's or caretaker's judgment that they are at fault and so deserved the abuse. As adults they will continue to act out of a sense of pervasive guilt that they cannot understand. As a result abused children often suffer from low self-esteem and erratic emotional swings.

For most survivors of domestic violence, the pain simply will never go away. To have been betrayed by the one they most loved and trusted has left them with a deep sorrow. Furthermore, in most cases, the end of abuse has been accompanied by loss: the end of a marriage, the loss of home and security, the loss of a relationship with parents. Many survivors suffer from chronic depression; many attempt suicide long after the abuse has ended.

The isolation imposed by abusers often continues long after the abuse is over. Survivors find themselves unable to connect well with others, much less trust them and develop long-lasting relationships that bring true joy. It is not unusual for them to experience difficulty reconnecting with family or church community. Some, especially children, hunger for relationships but lack the social skills for friendship. Others turn inward and try to rely on their own resources. Inevitably, they run out of coping skills and can find nowhere to turn. Theirs becomes a lonely existence.

Frequently, survivors who want to be caring human beings, who want to respond appropriately to others, find that they have lost, if only temporarily, the ability to do so. They want to respond empathetically to their friends, their children, their business associates, but find that their repressed insecurities, fears, shame, guilt, and even hatred keep bubbling up out of old wounds, making it impossible, They want to be loving to their spouses and children, but find that they keep acting like the very parent who abused them. They want to leave the past behind them but find that its terrifying memories haunt them no matter where they go.

B. What the social science literature reports

The term "victim" generally refers to individuals experiencing any of the forms of domestic violence at the time the violence is occurring. However, individuals who in the past have been victims of the various forms of violence prefer to call themselves survivors. Being a victim implies helplessness. Being a survivor, however, implies persistence and recovery. Since the effects of abuse on survivors is similar across the different types of abuse, the effects and supporting research relative to the various types and forms of domestic violence will be identified. The effects can be grouped into three main categories, physical, economic, and psychological. (These categories are not identified in order of importance. Spiritual effects is discussed later.)

I was taken from my parents when I was only four because of my father's abuse and my mother's drug addiction. After living in several foster homes, I became a ward of the state at age 10. Then I began to do things that got me in trouble. I killed three dogs and put a cat in a dryer for a few minutes just to see it struggle to stand up. At 14 I became interested in devil worship. Now at age 17 I have been sent to prison for threatening to cut a young woman's body into pieces as a sacrificing ritual.

A Child-abuse Victim

C. Physical abuse

Physical abuse can have long-term health consequences, leaving survivors with persistent health problems, such as chronic pain, and/or mental health problems. Sexual abuse carries with it the added risk of communicable disease, including AIDS, as well as the possibility of pregnancy for female victims.

I would leave my husband and take the children with me but I have no money. How would I feed the children if I leave? He controls the finances. If I leave without the children, I would never see them again. I could go to a shelter with the children but that is only temporary. I am sure people say, "Why do you stay with that man the way he treats you?" But what can I do? Who will help me?

A Spouse/partner Abuse Survivor

D. Economic factor

Being a victim of partner abuse can have a significant impact on the victim's employment status. Research shows that victims' work performance is seriously affected by the presence of physical abuse. In one study over 50 percent of the women reported having been absent from work as a result of being physically abused. An even greater percentage indicated they had been late for work or had to leave work early, and 25 percent reported losing a job partly because of being abused. Many women reported their spouse/partner harassed them on the job to the extent that it created difficulty for them to maintain their employment.21

Women who have been battered by their partners often find it difficult to secure medical insurance. A congressional survey in 1994 found that 50 percent of the largest insurance companies refused to insure battered women because they were perceived as being involved in high-risk lifestyles and consequently too costly to insure. If the abusive husband is the source of health insurance for the spouse and her child and if she cannot get insurance for herself, she cannot risk leaving the marital relationship even though it is abusive. Thus, the inability to purchase health insurance becomes a factor that keeps women from leaving abusive relationships.

I was too ashamed to tell my pastor about the beatings I was receiving from my husband. Everyone thought he was a pillar in the church, a good elder and generous Christian man. I always wore long sleeves to hide the bruises. I believed my husband when he said it was all my fault. And because I took the blame, I remained silent so that no one would ever know.

A Spouse/Partner Abuse Survivor

E. Psychological factor

High rates of depression and suicide attempts have been found in a sample of adult sibling abuse survivors.22 Depression is also a common complaint of women who have experienced physical and emotional spouse/partner abuse as well as marital and date rape.23

Children who have been sexually abused have been shown to be more lonely, have higher rates of depression, make more suicide attempts, and have more suicidal fantasies than nonabused children.24 These problems may continue into adulthood if the survivor does not receive treatment. Adult women sexually abused as children have a higher risk of becoming drug and alcohol abusers,25 likely because drugs and alcohol relieve the recurring painful memories. Research also shows a relationship between being sexually abused as a child and eating disorders in adolescence and later in life.26

Another serious effect of being sexually abused as a child is the inability to trust others, especially adults. In most instances the perpetrator of child sexual abuse is an adult known to the victim, such as a family member (father, mother's boyfriend, uncle, grandfather, etc) or another adult known to the family (clergy, Scout leader, coach, etc.). The perpetrator's taking advantage of the child diminishes the child's ability to trust other adults. A similar phenomenon occurs with survivors of date rape, where the perpetrator takes advantage by forcing the relationship into a setting for rape. The inability to trust others and a fear of closeness can also impact other adult relationships, such as a survivor's relationship with employment supervisors and others in authority.27 Research indicates that a common effect of being physically, emotionally or sexually abused is low self-esteem and self-worth. This has been noted in children physically and emotionally abused,28 children sexually abused,29 individuals experiencing spouse/partner abuse,30 sibling abuse,31 and, courtship violence.32

My brother would hit, slap and punch me continually. He would hold my arms behind my back and demand that I say "Uncle" or beg him to stop. When I did so, he would only hurt me more. I was in a no-win situation. When I told my parents, they would excuse it as simply sibling rivalry or say, "You have to learn to fight your own battles."

A Sibling Abuse Survivor

The literature identifies numerous other psychological problems encountered by individuals who have survived the various types and forms of abuse: sleep and somatic complaints,33 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),34 and, dissociation.35 Similarly, the psychological effects of battering may include symptoms similar to PTSD, such as anxiety, depression, a re-experiencing of the traumatic event, feelings of helplessness, and sleep and appetite disturbances.36 Children who experience frequent verbal aggression from their parents, emotional abuse, show higher rates of physical aggression, delinquency, and domestic problems than non-emotionally abused children.37

F. The Impact of Witnessing Parental Violence

Increasingly, research is showing the serious impact on children who witness parental violence or spouse/partner abuse. It has found, for example, that rates of sibling violence are higher in families where parental abuse occurs.38 This suggests, based on social learning theory or modeling to be discussed later, that some children learn their violence from witnessing their parents being violent, which they in turn exhibit in their domestic relationships. Thus, a cycle of violence may occur, beginning with parental violence that in turn is imitated in the children's relationships to siblings, peers, and later in dating, marital and parent/child relationships.

My older brother made comments about my developing breasts. One time when he babysat me when my parents were away for the evening, he fondled my breasts and threatened to hurt me if I told my parents. I was too scared to tell them for fear what he might do to me. I never let him babysit me again but arranged to go to a friend's house whenever my parents would go out.

A Sibling Abuse Survivor

In summary, the effects of abuse can be very severe on the psychosocial functioning of survivors. Although these effects have been individually identified, in many instances, they have long term consequences and may interact with each other. For example, individuals experiencing low self-esteem as a result of abuse may also abuse drugs, alcohol or food as they attempt to cope. Also, as children witness parental violence, they are likely to resort to violence in other domestic relationships.

X. Who Are the Abusers?

Anyone can be an abuser.39 There is no profile that can explain who might be abusing someone. An abuser can be old or young, male or female, professional or working class, of any income, race, religion, or culture. Studies have found that age and race/ethnicity are not indicators. In a 1990 restraining order study, the age of abusers ranged from 17–70. Two thirds of the abusers were between the ages 24 and 40.40

However, there are types of abusers that we need to understand. In the following paragraphs we discuss some of the research that makes us more aware of the violence that is occurring in our own families and communities.

A. Child Molesters

Child molesters are a diverse group of persons who sexually exploit children. There are three categories of child molesters. Fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins and trusted community leaders who molest children form the largest group, making the family and other intimate groups one of the most dangerous places for children. Some children are molested by women as well, though 95 percent of sexual assaults are by men. Second, there are adolescent molesters. They are usually abused children who act out sexually in relation to younger boys and girls with whom they have contact. Because they themselves are often seriously damaged, both the adolescents and the children they molest need help. Pedophiles are a third kind of molester. They are people who target boys and girls of specific ages for sexual abuse. Pedophiles are especially dangerous when they hide in trusted leadership roles such as pastor, teacher, and leader of children's organizations. They are also dangerous because they often have multiple victims.

B. Rapists

Rapists are persons who engage in coercive and exploitative sexual behaviors against other persons. In a classic study, Nicholas Groth defines rape as "all nonconsenting sexual encounters, whether the victim is pressured or forced." (p 4) Social pressure and physical assault are two primary methods that rapists use to coerce sexual activity. We can distinguish between types of rapists according to whom they victimize—men who rape women and children within the family; men who rape within marriage and other intimate relationships; men who rape dates and acquaintances; and men who rape strangers. Rape is almost always conducted by men. Rapists are motivated primarily by a need for power over a vulnerable person, although sexuality remains an important aspect of this type of abuse.

C. Batterers

Batterers are persons who inflict harm upon spouse/partner and children in their families or intimate acquaintances. One type of batterer physically, psychologically, and sexually abuses a spouse/partner or date. Clinicians who work with such batterers believe that the abusers act primarily out of an expression of the need for power and control. Highly dependent, often emotionally isolated from others, they try to control and possess their spouses. Another type of batterer physically abuses children. Sometimes the abuser batters both the spouse/partner and the children, and sometimes the abuser batters only one or more children. Because they are most often the primary caregivers, women physically abuse children.

D. Verbal abusers

Verbal abusers use words to control and intimidate. They may be words that taunt, degrade, or threaten. Verbally abusive parents batter a child's sense of self-esteem or frighten the child with threats to harm the child, a pet, or a favorite person. A verbally abusive spouse does more than nag or argue. He/she creates a hostile environment in which the abused party lives in fear.

In discussing ways to end abuse, researchers and activists alike argue for changes in the structural and cultural arrangements in society that perpetuate it. As of now, the consequences for most violent behavior are insufficient; therefore, abusers are not motivated to stop.

What about recidivism among abusers? Domestic violence tends to be a pattern rather than a one-time occurrence. For example, short term (6–12 weeks) psycho-educational batterer intervention programs have helped some batterers stop immediate physical violence but have been inadequate in stopping abuse over time. Some batterers simply became more sophisticated in their psychological abuse and intimidation after attending such programs. During the six months following an episode of domestic violence, 32 percent of battered women are victimized again. Other forms of abuse show similar patterns.

All abusers need accountability for their actions, and after all potential victims are safe, they need programs of reeducation and healing so they will not abuse again. Abusers are children of God who need the love and justice of God to save them from harming others.

XI. Why Do People Abuse Others?

Why would a parent beat a child? How can one explain a husband calling his wife a sexually degrading term? Why would a parent be emotionally abusive toward a child? Why would an adult child withhold medication from an elderly parent? Extensive research on the question of understanding as well as treating and preventing domestic violence has occurred during the past several decades and currently continues. This research represents the efforts of individuals from many disciplines including psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, social work, nursing, and pastoral counseling, as well as observations of therapists working with victims and survivors of domestic violence. While one may be tempted to search for a single reason or cause that explains any of the types or forms of domestic violence, the complexity of this social problem as well as the complexity of understanding human behavior as such prevents posing such a singular explanation or cause. Also, the concept of cause in terms of the question "What causes this behavior?" is generally not sought in the study of human behavior. Human behavior, including violent behavior, is very complex and a single cause or even multiple causes cannot be identified. Social scientists, rather than speaking of causes of behavior, prefer to identify factors associated with the behavior. If an attempt were made to list all of the factors shown to be associated with the various types and forms of domestic violence, the list would be exceedingly lengthy. Therefore, for the purposes of this policy statement, these factors will be summarized under several major theoretical perspectives that aid in understanding violence or aggression; namely, violence as a learned behavior, violence as power and control, violence as a result of frustration, psychological/psychodynamic factors, and biological factors. Examples of research studies reflecting each of these major theoretical perspectives relevant to the various types of abuse will be cited.

My adult sister emotionally abused my elderly mother. My 80-year-old mother could not remember if she had taken her medicine or not. Mother said my sister would call her "Stupid" if she couldn't remember if she had taken her pills. The problem could have been avoided if my sister had simply set out the amount of medicine mother was to take each day. Unfortunately, I was living 600 miles away and could not help my mother.

An Observer of Elder Abuse

A. Violence as learned behavior

Violence may be a behavior that a perpetrator has learned from observing others being violent. This is referred to as modeling the behavior. When movies, videos, TV programs, and computer games present violent behavior as a way of solving conflicts, such behavior is modeled by others as seen in the various types of domestic violence. Parental aggression in the form of corporal punishment presents children with an example or model that hitting or slapping is an acceptable method of problem solving. Children punished in this manner have been shown to model physically aggressive behavior in their relationships with others.

The modeling of aggressive behavior in part explains the intergenerational theory of abuse; namely, that violence begets violence. Children who have been physically abused may, although not necessarily, in turn be abusive in dating relationships and later in their own parenting roles. However, corrective emotional experiences can prevent such abuse from being transferred from generation to generation.

B. Violence as power and control

Domestic violence also can be understood from the theoretical perspective that focuses on the power and control that males exert over females. Just as males dominate females at the societal level, this also occurs in the context of the home, family, and in domestic relationships in general.

I must admit I wasn't the neatest kid when I was growing up; however, the constant struggle my parents had with me about the way I kept my room hurts me to this day. My father would inspect my room every few days and if he found clothes lying on the floor or my desk being messy, he would slap me very hard, once even in the face when I told him I didn't think my room looked that bad. The names my parents called me—slob, Ms. Piggy—I guess were supposed to motivate me to be neater but they ruined my self-esteem.

A Child Abuse Survivor

Violence as power and control can be seen in physical and emotional spouse/partner abuse, in dating violence, and in marital and date rape. Some males use physical and emotional abuse in order to maintain their position of power in the spouse/partner and dating relationship. Sex on demand, or marital and date rape, is seen as appropriate behavior by some males. Some biblical passages, when taken literally and without regard to the social and cultural context in which these passages were written, are used to inappropriately reinforce the view that women must be subordinate to men.

C. Violence as a result of frustration

This theoretical perspective suggests that violence may stem from frustration resulting from a person experiencing blockage or interference in attaining a goal. Frustration is also conceptualized as stress occurring in a person's life. For example, an unemployed parent frustrated by an inability to find work to support the family may physically or verbally lash out at a spouse/partner or the children. Statistical data on child and spouse abuse indicate that in times of high unemployment or economic downturn, reports of child and spouse/partner abuse often increase.

External conditions are also factors that can affect the relationship between frustration and aggression. The presence or ease with which weapons are available in the United States may contribute to guns being a factor in homicides that occur among family members, especially in the context of spouse/partner abuse. "In 1992 handguns were used to murder 13 people in Australia, 33 people in Great Britain; 60 people in Japan, 128 in Canada; and more than 13,000 in the United States."41 A portion of these individuals in the United States who were murdered by guns lost their lives in the context of domestic violence.

D. Psychological/psychodynamic factors

Studies of personality characteristics of men who are abusive to partners/spouses show evidence of marked personality disorders, mood and other symptom disturbances, and cognitive and affect problems. The personality profiles of men who batter give the impression that abusive males may tend to regard as threatening, situations that most individuals would not regard as such. Similarly, perpetrators of elder abuse have been shown to exhibit severe problems in psychosocial functioning, as reflected in a high incidence of prior arrests, problems with substance abuse, depression, previous hospitalizations for psychiatric illness, and past involvement in violent behavior.42

My younger brother and sister called me names as I was growing up because I was overweight. My parents ignored their abusive behavior. It was humiliating the names they called me, even in front of my friends. I couldn't wait to leave home. As an adult I have poor self-esteem that I think stems in large part from what I experienced from my siblings.

A Sibling Abuse Survivor

Empathy is regarded in psychological literature as a moderating variable in the display of aggression. Research identifies child abuse perpetrators as less empathic than non-abusers.43 The absence of empathy has also been noted in mothers who are provoked to anger by their infants' crying, culminating at times in these mothers abusing the infant by violent shaking. Other psychological variables, such as depression and sadness, may also relate to the absence of empathy in physically abusive mothers.

Some psychotherapists working with men engaged in abusive behavior with partners/spouses view these individuals as having violence-prone personalities. They have learned to use violence as a way of keeping themselves psychologically intact. Attachment theory suggests that the aggression demonstrated by perpetrators in intimate relationships, such as in spouse/partner abuse and dating violence, stems from the anger and anxiety they experience over the fear of abandonment and over a failure to bond in early parent-child relationships.

E. Biological factors

Biochemical changes, as seen in the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain, are a contributing factor to domestic violence. Research shows that substance abuse is a significant factor in child abuse, spouse/partner abuse, elder abuse, and dating violence.

Physical injury in the form of severe trauma to the head may account for the rage demonstrated by some perpetrators of physical abuse against their partners/spouses. Research also has shown that lead residues from lead-based paints can act as a brain poison that interferes with a person's ability to restrain aggressive impulses. Genetic differences, as in differences in temperament, also can impact aggressiveness. This may in part explain why some siblings are physically aggressive toward their sisters and brothers.

In summary, these are theoretical perspectives that assist in an understanding of the factors associated with the various types and forms of domestic violence. These perspectives and the research that supports them do not in any way condone domestic violence in whatever form it may appear. Although we can perhaps understand the roots of abusive behavior by looking at characteristics abusers have in common, each incidence of violence must be uniquely viewed in terms of the contributing factors.

I didn't make a police report or go to the hospital. I didn't think anyone would believe that I was raped by someone I knew—my boyfriend.

A Dating Violence Survivor

XII. How Can Victims and Abusers Find Healing and Transformation?

No doubt, all victims of domestic violence would like to simply do as friends, even the church, advise them and forget the past, forget the abuse. However, therapists, advocates, survivors themselves, all testify that the only way to deal with the past is to go through it. To heal, that is to be transformed from a victim into a survivor, the abused need to face the manifold ways in which their psyches/spirits have become fragmented. Instead of expending their energy by trying to repress the painful emotions and terrifying memories, they need to allow themselves to feel and remember what happened to them. The path to transformation is integrating the repressed emotions, memories, even fragments of their true selves that were never allowed to develop, into their consciousness. Once those emotions, memories, and fragments become conscious, the abused person can decide to build upon the good ones.

This is a slow, frequently agonizing process, and it can only be endured in the presence of those willing and able to nurture victims back into wholeness, those with the patience to listen and the love to empathetically endure the unendurable with them. To heal, victims need to be encouraged to remember and retell the horrors they have endured, sometimes over and over, until what has been repressed is fully integrated into the consciousness. They begin to find healing when they understand that their depression, anger, irrational fears, and insecurities are the painful legacy of a past they did not choose but still threatens to destroy them. While a therapist must be among those who listen and respond, who guide and encourage, a therapist is not enough. In their quests for healing and transformation, many survivors bear witness to the power of God and the love of God's people.

As Paul wrote, "Love is patient; love is kind . . . it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends" (1 Cor. 13:4, 6–8a). The church, as it expresses the love that bears the burdens of the past and endures patiently with the survivor struggling to heal, also mediates the hope of the resurrection. After the suffering that all but kills the spirit, through the empowering love of God, rebirth and new life emerges. And through this power, the church can nurture the survivor back into wholeness, for as Paul also wrote, "Love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1b). It empowers the survivor to act with integrity and to love once again.

Abusers too need healing and transformation. They too need the power of God and the love of God's people. Current evidence, however, suggests that the route to their transformation comes not so much from listening and supporting as from confrontation and accountability.

XIII. How Can The Church Respond?

To take seriously its theological and ethical understanding of domestic violence and its responsibility to be a healing and nurturing community, the church is called to be God's instrument for preventing further harm to God's people who are particularly vulnerable. Thus the church is called to claim its pastoral and prophetic role to be a sanctuary for victims and survivors and to call abusers to accountability. This ministry is done both in personal and social dimensions.

These tasks, put forth in "Peacemaking in a Violent World, Session V, First Steps Toward Nonviolence," are four-fold:

Restore hope: present a new vision for a new future. This is the area where the church is uniquely qualified to make a difference. As people of faith, we are a people of vision. We are called not simply to assure our own salvation but to present the vision to a hope-starved world.

Own the problem. We cannot separate ourselves from the society around us. The sin of the church has often been to shut out the world. As Jesus identified with the least of these, so must we. We must acknowledge the violence within ourselves and our congregations and our complicity with the world's way of violence.

Show another way. We can model alternatives to violence by choosing a different way for ourselves and our families and by providing alternative activities within our communities.

Become an agent of healing in the midst of pain. We can reach out to victims and perpetrators of violence, offering support, and when needed, confrontation.
In these tasks, the church is empowered to live up to its pastoral and prophetic role to hear the abuse, hold the abuser accountable, and be God's good instrument of healing. Yet the church's role goes beyond keeping those who have been harmed from sustaining additional personal harm. The church must work for changes in society so that violence is not accepted or in any way legitimated by the social and cultural realities—working for systemic change. While the church always places an emphasis on the care of victims and the vulnerable, it does this care in the broader sense as well—working to ensure the changes necessary to prevent there ever being victims! The church is empowered to share in the transformation of individuals and society.

XIV. A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence

A. Pastoral response

Grounded in an understanding of domestic violence, a pastoral response should have the following three goals:

Goal One: Protect the victim or victims from further abuse

Although the form of this response will depend on the degree of danger faced by the victims, it is the number one priority. The immediate safety of the person harmed or threatened must be secured.

Goal Two: Stop the abuser's violence and hold the abuser accountable

Again, the circumstances will dictate the form of response. This goal encompasses two dimensions: first, insisting upon the immediate cessation of the abusive behavior, and second, calling the abuser to accountability.

Immediate, temporary cessation may be accomplished by helping the victim get to a safe place, but the abuser's violent behavior must also be confronted. Research now suggests that arrest is the single most effective deterrent to future abusive behavior. It may be the first time that anyone with authority has made it clear to the abuser that this behavior is wrong, criminal, and intolerable. The criminal justice system can play a critical role in informing victims of available options and communicating to offenders the message that this behavior is wrong—while helping to protect victims in the short-term from further abuse. The abuser must assume full responsibility for the abuse.

Goal Three: Restore the family relationship or mourn the loss of the relationship.

The third goal of ministry with victims and abusers presents the possibility of reconciliation and the healing of individuals and relationships. This goal, however, is entirely dependent on the successful accomplishment of Goals One and Two. It is the victim, not the pastor or other person(s) in a supporting relationship, who judges whether Goals One and Two have been met. Whether to proceed to Goal Three is a decision that the victim/survivor makes voluntarily. Restoration of a relationship is impossible prior to the authentic accomplishment of these more urgent goals.

It is possible to create the appearance of restoration at an earlier point, as by encouraging a couple to live together in the same house, and to attend church together. Genuine restoration is not accomplished by such superficial signs. The process of achieving Goals One and Two may take months or years. Even so, any circumvention of this agenda will prevent family members from reaching Goal Three and will result in the ultimate loss of the relationship. Restoration cannot be based on partial success or on the promises of the abuser. It is dependent on clear evidence of change in the abuser's behavior. Even then, there is only the possibility of restoration; there are no guarantees. The outcome depends on how severe the damage has been to the relationship.

If it is against spouse or intimate partner, the abuser's violence has broken the relationship and destroyed the safety and trust that make for intimacy and covenant. The certainty and evidence that coercion and violence are no longer part of an abuser's repertoire are prerequisites for considering the possibility of reconciliation.

If, for whatever reason, Goals One and Two are not accomplished, then the only remaining option is mourning the loss of the relationship. This amounts to an acknowledgment that the positive dimensions of the relationship and its future possibilities are irretrievably lost. Hence, the victim, the abuser, and the community they are a part of will experience grief. Still, for the victim, out of this loss comes the possibility for healing and for a new life.

If one of the priorities of ministry is to restore what was broken and to reconcile ruptured relationships, then sincere attention to protect the victim and call the abuser to accountability are the means by which we may help people accomplish restoration. To ignore Goals One and Two would preclude any possibility of a genuine healing of the relationship.44

B. On child abuse and neglect

As in spouse/partner abuse, the goals of any effective response to suspected child abuse and neglect are the following:

Protect the child from further abuse.

Stop the offender's abuse.

Heal the victim's brokenness and, if possible, restore the family or, if not possible, to mourn the loss of family relationships.
These goals can be accomplished best by the early reporting of suspected child abuse to appropriate legal authorities. Anyone may report suspected child abuse and will not be liable for an unfounded report if it is made in good faith. In every state, persons in helping professions—teachers, doctors, counselors, police officers, social workers, health professionals—are legally mandated to report a suspicion of child abuse or neglect to child abuse authorities.

In some states in the United States, ordained clergy are exempt from this statutory requirement. People serving in a pastoral role, however, are encouraged to report suspected child abuse regardless of statutory requirements. Presbyterians should learn the specifics of the law by calling their state attorney general's office. Church leaders, lay or clergy, should not attempt to gather detailed evidence from the person who discloses the abuse. If child abuse is suspected, the children's protective services agency should be contacted to discuss concerns or to file a formal report concerning the welfare of a child or teenager. The children's protective services agency will investigate and determine the level of risk to the child.

Every state provides a mechanism at the state level for reporting, investigating, and assessing situations. It is obligated to assist victims, abusers, and other family members in addressing the three goals for intervention.

XV. A Prophetic Response: Justicemaking

Whether we are victim, abuser, friend, helper, or church community, we long for healing. We long for justice. Several steps are necessary for healing and justice to become reality:45

Truth-telling is essential. The silence that surrounds the violence must be broken. Truth-telling is not merely a rendering of facts; it is giving voice to reality. It is also about naming the violence. Carol J. Adams suggests that "the care provider creates the climate for moving from silence to naming the violence, thus offering an invitation to healing and liberation."46 The violence needs to be named for what it is—a sin before God.

Truth spoken must also be truth heard. Hearing the truth means acknowledging that violence has occurred. This acknowledgment needs to be spoken simply and clearly. "You have been harmed by this person. It was not your fault. This is wrong and should never have happened." This acknowledgment can come from a friend, a pastor, or the legal system, but it needs to come from somewhere.

Compassion is the willingness to suffer with the victim, combined with efforts to alleviate the suffering. Rather than trying to minimize, explain away or avoid the suffering of another, we should be present to share the suffering with that person.

Protecting the vulnerable from further abuse means doing whatever is necessary to protect the victim and others from further harm. It is about ensuring the safety of the victim.

Accountability involves confronting the one responsible for violence, which hopefully will result in confession or acknowledgment of his/her responsibility.

Restitution, making payment for damage done by violence, is a concrete means of renewing right-relation. Not only does material restitution help pay for expenses incurred as a result of the victimization, it is also highly symbolic. It is a tangible sign of an attempt to restore that which was lost due to an assault.

Vindication for victims is the essence of justice and mercy. Vindication refers not to vengeance and retaliation but to the exoneration and justification of those harmed. The root meaning of vindication is to set free; hence, to be vindicated is to be set free from the bondage of victimization.

XVI. Education for Prevention

The third dimension for nurturing a responsive church community is prevention. The church's preventive role is, in the long run, the most important one, as the church remains a significant center for education, new awareness, and ethical standards for people in the community. We propose a curriculum that includes and supports healthy, loving, and just family relationships and prevents abusive and violent ones.

"Children need prevention education to prepare them to deal with the strong likelihood of attempted sexual abuse. Teaching them self-respect and self-confidence and giving them permission to say 'no' to any adult who would harm them is both practical and a theological priority."47 In addition, teach children ways to deal with anger, stress, feelings of powerlessness, and how to relate in healthy ways to others.

Teenagers need straightforward information about relationships and sexuality in order to have expectations of mutuality, choice, and respect in relationship. "Providing them with communication and assertiveness skills and with support for their development within a context of religious values is a priority."48

Adults who are approaching marriage or commitment face an excellent opportunity to reflect carefully on their expectations of each other and of their relationship. In addition to a long list of other concerns, the minister can—and should—raise questions concerning conflict, expression of anger, previous experiences of coercion or abuse in relationships, and growing-up experiences in the family of origin. To provide an opportunity for this discussion as a preparation for commitment is vital and much appreciated by couples.

Adult children, who are facing the illness or disability of an adult parent, also need the information, resources, and support that the church can provide. The open discussion of ways to deal with the stress that such a family crisis often creates can mitigate against the possibility of elder abuse or neglect.

Parents of disabled children and children of disabled parents need information about the potential for abuse. The disabled themselves need strategies for resisting and identifying abuse.

The church is in a position, perhaps more than any other institution, to provide these kinds of resources within its comprehensive educational ministry. Thus, it can be a primary means of preventing domestic violence.

The church is proclaiming the gospel when it offers an alternative to the generational cycle of abuse in families and relationships. The church is proclaiming the gospel when it takes the initiative in providing prevention education at the congregational level.

XVII. How Do We Address Religious Issues and Abuse?

The church also needs to address the religious issues with which victims and abusers struggle. We have already discussed how the crisis of domestic violence affects people psychologically and physically. The spiritual dimension needs to be addressed as well, both for victims and for the abusers.

The misinterpretation and misuse of the Christian traditions have often had a harmful effect on families, particularly those dealing with domestic violence. Misinterpretation of the traditions can contribute substantially to the guilt, self-blame, and suffering that victims experience and to the rationalizations often used by those who abuse, "But the bible says . . ." is frequently used to explain, excuse, or justify abuse between family members.

If a woman's tradition teaches that she must be subordinate to her husband and cannot divorce him under any circumstance, she will have a difficult time dealing with an abusive husband. She may be afraid to use the resources of the community services and worry that a shelter will not respect her beliefs. She may go to her minister and be told to go home, to pray harder and be a better wife. Either way she is isolated which only further endangers her. If her minister is unethical and exploitative, he may take advantage of her circumstances, manipulating her into a sexual relationship or sexually assaulting her. She turned to the church because she trusted its representative to help her, but her trust has been betrayed. She has received no help for her original problem and she has an additional one—an abusive minister.

Victims and survivors struggle with many religious issues, among them

If God is good, why does God let this happen to me?

I watched my mother get beaten by my father. My boyfriend has beaten me from the time I began to date him. Shouldn't I just accept it and live with it? This must be God's will for me.

I am not a good Christian. I have done some bad things in the past. Maybe this abuse is God's way of punishing me. This must be my cross to bear.

The Bible says that the wife must submit to her husband. Does this mean that I must submit to abuse?

If Jesus calls us to forgive our enemies should I not go back to my spouse/partner/sibling/child who abused me?

When my family, friends, colleagues at work, even the church community, turn away from me and blame me for being abused, then why should I believe that God has not abandoned me?

If Jesus prohibited divorce, then how can I leave my husband/wife?

I was abused by my father. I was an incest victim. How can I honor my father?
On the other hand, the religious community and its leaders can be a tremendous resource when a person has been victimized. The church can offer support—spiritual, financial, material—a safe place to share feelings, advocacy as the victim attempts to use the judicial system, and, for the abuser, a calling to accountability. The church's task is to minimize the roadblocks to the victim's religious beliefs and to be a resource. Our task is to ensure that the victim not be forced to choose between safety and the support of the faith community. She needs both.

To the victims of abuse, religious concerns represent meaning and purpose, salvation, and eternity. Again, the presence and counsel of the minister and the congregations in giving attention to these issues is critical.

XVIII. What Have Some Congregations Have Done?

Reverend Bob Owens, former minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Honolulu, not only preached on domestic violence but also led his congregation in a compassionate and prophetic response to it. The congregation helped start an ecumenical safe home for victims and survivors. A lay person from the church, who attended the Presbyterian Training on Domestic Violence, has continued to raise awareness in the congregations and is active in the interfaith community response to domestic violence on the island.

Many local congregations are breaking the silence around domestic violence issues, especially around intimate partner and child abuse. Some are preparing their churches to be able to respond appropriately when there are disclosures, while others have developed policies of making their churches safer for children.

Presbyterian Women has been taking the lead in increasing awareness of the issue. Through the organization's birthday offering, women have been contributing to the development of educational resources, such as videos, and funding training events. A teen-dating video, featuring healthy relationships and guidance in the prevention of violent ones, has also been made possible through the contributions of Presbyterian Women. Presbyterian Men as well have just begun to play a leadership role. They have held a national video teleconference on spouse/partner abuse and held one on the effects of domestic violence on children in early 2001.

In the past the church has responded to the issue of domestic violence by developing written resources: Resolution on Family Violence; Song of Songs (on Pornography); Striking Terror No More, and Surely Heed Their Cries. The most recent attempt at developing a denominational resource was the national satellite telecast produced and sponsored by the Presbyterian Men. The teleconference focused on "Men and Women Working Together to Stop Violence Against Women." It was received directly by approximately sixty downlinks and viewed by more than two thousand people in twenty-four states.

The church is proclaiming the gospel when it offers an alternative to the generational cycle of abuse in families and relationships.

XIX. What About Confidentiality and Reporting?

Information shared in confidence can usually be held in trust unless it leads one to believe that someone is being hurt or abused, is in danger of injury, or the perpetrator/abuser or victim/survivor presents a risk to self or others.

Christians, in general, are called to be the voice for the voiceless and for those without power. This calling takes on added relevance when clergy are aware of child/youth abuse. It is in this context that persons in ministry, especially clergy, assume their responsibility in the reporting of child abuse, the elderly, and those disabled in ways that prevent them from reporting the abuse themselves. They speak for those without voice and power.

The 212th General Assembly (2000) legislated G-6.0204 and G-14.0801f, which mandate that ministers and commissioned lay pastors keep pastoral confidentiality. The amendments read as follows:

In the exercise of pastoral care, ministers of the Word and Sacrament shall maintain a relationship of trust and confidentiality, and shall hold in confidence all information revealed to them in the course of providing such care and all information relating to the exercise of such care. When the person whose confidences are at issue gives express consent to reveal confidential information, then a minister of the Word and Sacrament may, but cannot be compelled to, reveal confidential information. A minister of the Word and Sacrament may reveal confidential information when she or he reasonably believes that there is risk of imminent bodily harm to any person. (Book of Order, 2000–2001, G-6.0204)

f. In the exercise of pastoral care, commissioned lay pastors shall maintain a relationship of trust and confidentiality, and shall hold in confidence all information revealed to them in the course of providing such care and all information relating to the exercise of such care. When the person whose confidences are at issue gives express consent to reveal confidential information, then a commissioned lay pastor may, but cannot be compelled to, reveal confidential information. A commissioned lay pastor may reveal confidential information when she or he reasonably believes that there is risk of imminent bodily harm to any person. (Book of Order, 2000–2001, G-14.0801f)

Those sections specifically provide that a minister or commissioned lay pastor may ". . . reveal confidential information when she/he reasonably believes there is a risk of imminent bodily harm to any person."

In addition to helping the victim, reporting may result in effective intervention for the abuser. The behavior of offenders often escalates over time if it is not stopped. Abusers need psychological treatment along with spiritual guidance. Repentance, conversion, prayer, and spiritual counsel can help the abuser, but outside intervention must also occur in order to hold the perpetrator accountable for his/her actions.

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy has recommended that the General Assembly encourage all clergy, elders, church members, other church staff, and volunteers to always report to the appropriate authority the abuse of children, the elderly, and those disabled in ways that prevent them from reporting the abuse themselves; and after appropriate training, discuss with all victims/survivors their risk and safety options, and refer the victims/survivors to appropriate resources.

The church is called to adequately equip itself for ministry to persons experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

XX. Conclusion

The 192nd General Assembly (1980) adopted Peacemaking: the Believers' Calling. In that statement we find these words: "Peace is the intended order of the world with life abundant for all God's children." Today the church's challenge is to work at peacemaking in the most fundamental contexts: in homes across our country, in people's most intimate relationships.

Yes, we are talking about family values, about lifting up every member of every family—all are precious in God's eyes, all deserving to live a life free of fear.

Yes, we are talking about transformation, about changing a society in which power is defined as control and where rage destroys our most precious relationships.

Yes, we are talking about hope. Our hope rests in Jesus Christ, who himself died at the hands of violent people. Yet in his brief lifetime, as he blessed children, as he honored women, as he healed the sick and disabled, he taught us how to live together in peace.

Yes, we are talking about resurrection. The wounded will be made whole.

A Prayer for Domestic Violence Healing

We are the church.
We offer ourselves to you, O God, Our Creator.
We offer our hands.
May we use them to extend a healing touch to comfort sisters and brothers and children, youth, and elderly who are afraid.
We offer our eyes and ears.
May we see and hear the signs and stories of violence so that all may have someone with them in their pain and confusion.
We offer our hearts and our tears.
May the hurt and sorrow of the abused echo within us.
We offer our own stories of violence.
May we be healed as we embrace each other.
We offer our anger.
Make it a passion for justice.
We offer all our skills.
Use our gifts to end violence.
We offer our faith, our hope, our love.
May our encounters with violence bring us closer to you and to each other.
All this we ask through Jesus Christ who knows the pain of violence.

Appendix A: The Journey of the Task Force on "Healing Domestic Violence: Nurturing a Responsive Church Community"

Charge and Purpose

The charge given the Task Force on "Healing Domestic Violence: Nurturing a Responsive Church Community" in their prospectus prepared by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) was "to explore the root causes of domestic violence, to assess the church's complicity and response to the problem, and to propose a new policy statement with principles and recommendations to educate, develop preventive strategies and response criteria, and suggest ways to nurture a responsive church community."

Who are Members of the Task Force?

The Task Force members included seven women and five men with significant experience and/or training in issues of interpersonal violence. They are African American, Asian American, and Anglo American with ages ranging from 30 to 75 years. They are evenly balanced laity and clergy. Among them were lay professionals working in the church: a Presbytery staff member with interest in issues of violence, a parish nurse and founder of a church-initiated support group for battered women, and the founder of a battered women's shelter.

Three of the members are professors at the university and seminary level. A social scientist at the University of Kentucky, a psychologist whose work is focused on working with victims/survivors and perpetrators of interpersonal violence at Northwestern University, and a systematic theologian teaching at Detroit Mercy Seminary.

Among the seven clergy members, two are pastors serving congregations; each has interest and experience with domestic violence issues in the church. One clergy member is in ministry with troubled youth, many of whom are deeply affected by issues of violence in the home.

One member is an attorney with experience as a domestic violence prosecutor, and another member has served as director of a victim witness assistance program where the majority of those assisted were victims of domestic violence and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Among them were several victim/survivors of interpersonal violence: spouse abuse, sibling abuse, and child sexual abuse.

Two of the committee were former members of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, having begun their service while serving on the ACSWP.

We have been assisted by several liaisons and consultants: Peter Sulyok, our primary staff from the ACSWP, Judy Wrought, liaison from Women's Ministries of the National Ministries Division, Thelma Burgonio-Watson, consultant, who works with the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (CPSDV) in Seattle, Washington. The Task Force drew extensively on the resources of the CPSDV for the definitions and guidance in formulating the church's pastoral response. In addition, Lois Gehr Livezey, ethicist and professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, served as a consultant to the task force. Indeed, the title of the policy statement, Turn Mourning Into Dancing! A Policy Statement on Healing Domestic Violence, emerged from a similar title for a book Dr. Livezey is currently writing for Chalice Press. Sandi Thompson-Royer, staff for the GAC's Domestic Violence Network, also consulted with the task force.

Each time we meet we learned more about the horrible cost and the enormous impact of interpersonal violence in all our lives—in our relationships with one another and with our Creator, and in the physical, psychological, and spiritual pain of being so far from the life intended for each and every one of God's children.

The Task Force Process

The Task Force has been working for two years, meeting together five times in various locations to gather information and grapple with the issues and the church's role.

1. November 1998 in Louisville: Orientation for the task force took place with an examination of the prospectus, domestic violence and current work being done, and the task of policy making. The meeting included a visit to the Center for Women and Families, a discussion of definitions, themes, and the categories of violence. The group developed its time line for the work complete with small group discussions focusing on a possible churchwide study and churchwide survey.

2. March 1999 in Chicago: Framing biblical and theological issues was a main focus as the group examined various perspectives, the complexity of issues/ no single solution or message fits all situations. The task force also considered sociological and practical issues such as the location of factors: individual, family, society/culture; and a focus on the church role/problems and the need to claim and hold accountable. Discussion also focused on abusers/perpetrators (molesters, rapists, batterers, and professional abusers. Among the guests received included a leader from Korean American Women In Need on the implications of ethnicity and culture on domestic violence and Lois Gehr Livezey lifting up some theological and biblical resources. The small groups worked on the completion of planning the churchwide study, feedback and response utilizing the General Assembly Council's resource Striking Terror No More and a survey of the church. In addition there were research and presentation assignments presented by task force members on areas of their expertise.

3. October 1999 in Atlanta: The task force visited or heard from the Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute, Men Stopping Violence, and an attorney with the Child Advocacy Center's Crimes Against Women and Children, Atlanta Judicial Circuit Court's Office of the District Attorney. Task force member offered reports on Juveniles and Issues of Abuse, Elder Abuse, Church and Community Cooperation, Restorative Justice, and the Presbytery's Role in Domestic Violence. Brainstorming together as a whole was followed by small group discussion of possible elements of a proposed policy statement in the following areas: biblical, historical, theological aspects; social factors; categories of interpersonal violence; and the church's response—suggestions and strategies.

4. June 2000 in Chicago: There was a review of Presbyterian Panel survey findings and a review of the first draft for the policy statement followed by further working discussion sessions of small groups on Christology, Bible and family, and truth and reconciliation issues. Feedback from the churchwide study was reviewed.

5. September 2000 in Louisville: The task force reviewed the second draft of the proposed policy statement and background paper, offering further final editing and adjustments and reviewed the task force process and time together.

In addition to its work as a task force, the chair and several members of the task force shared in presentations of its work to the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy at their summer and fall meetings 2000, to a Synod Consultation on Turning Mourning Into Dancing January 12–14, 2001, to the commissioners at the 213th General Assembly (2001) in Louisville.

Appendix B: Disability and Abuse

If violence and abuse are uses of power that inflict harm on others for the perpetrator's own ends, then it is fairly self-evident that those who have less power as a result of disabilities are more vulnerable to becoming victims simply because they have less power to protect themselves from harm. While physical disability serves as the paradigm for most persons' attitudes and beliefs toward the disabled, mental and psychological disabilities also exist. Needless to say, each type of disability renders those living with a disability vulnerable in a different sort of way, and multiple forms of disability can render a person profoundly vulnerable to multiple forms of abuse.

The physically disabled person's fairly obvious vulnerability to violence becomes surcharged by our culture's simultaneous idealization and devaluation of the body. The body is expected to achieve ideal standards of both physical appearance and responsivity—in other words, it is supposed to fulfill high expectations for physical beauty and to do what its possessor wishes it to do. Since few people measure up to these high standards, most feel somewhat alienated from their bodies. This alienation contributes to the common refusal to see violence toward the body as a fundamentally spiritual issue; as a result, violence devalues the actual bodies in which we live and move and have our being.49 The greater our alienation from the body and the more repressed our emotions and feelings, the greater our difficulties in experiencing concern or empathy for others, particularly for those who suffer, and the more likely we are to treat them violently.

Marvin Ellison has argued that this idealization of the body also contributes to our culture's expectations that people should achieve physical mastery and control over themselves. The way persons with a physical disability struggle almost moment to moment with their bodies serves as an effective reminder to others of the limits of their own bodily control. This reminder is not always welcome. Those most resistant to it are likely to judge those with a disability as morally deficient and, quite irrationally, blame them for their problems. "Disabled persons, culturally designated as the Other, symbolize a dreaded loss of body control, diminished autonomy, and death, all things that people in a body- and death-denying culture seek to evade."50 Precisely as symbols for the dreaded loss of what many persons hold most valuable—their autonomy and self-control—those with physical disabilities frequently become targets of hostility. They will particularly become targets for those who repress their own terror of losing control and who project those unwanted feelings onto the disabled by ridiculing them, ostracizing them, marginalizing them, and attacking them in a variety of ways—in a word, scapegoating them for the perpetrator's own unresolved fears and hatred of his or her own body.51 The dependence on others by persons with physical disabilities, sometimes for meeting even elementary needs, make them ready targets upon which others might project and objectify their own repressed violence. This is also true of persons suffering from more hidden chronic disabling illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, lupus, and lyme disease. Such persons are frequently both stigmatized and blamed for their illness. Still, while far too many people in our culture believe that a life lived with a disability is hardly worth the effort, the vast majority of persons with a disability would counter that their main obstacle to living a fulfilling life is not the disability itself but the culture that so emphasizes autonomous individuality, and rejects as "unpleasant, unhappy, helpless, hopeless, and burdensome" those who cannot achieve it.52

Needless to say, disabilities cut across all age groups. When we consider age groups, disabled newborns and children are surely the most vulnerable. Local state and federal agencies frequently step in to protect the disabled newborns whose parents would rather withhold treatment, thus precipitating their death, than to raise them as disabled. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult for governing agencies to protect a newborn or child in the privacy of its own home than when it is still on a hospital ward. Children, particularly infants, always need much care, and test the limits of any parent's energy and patience. All the more so with children whose disabilities demand that they receive even more care and attention. Parents who are reluctant or unwilling to shoulder the burden of nurturing a disabled child are perhaps more likely to succumb to the temptation to neglect the child's needs or be abusive when trying to meet them.

Furthermore, all children are likely to split psychically when they encounter an abusive parent: they will split off the "bad" part of the parent from the "good" and internalize it as part of themselves, rather than face the reality that the parent upon whom they are dependent for survival is really malevolent. Such psychic splitting makes children more vulnerable to further abuse because it makes it harder for them to recognize abuse when it occurs anywhere, even into adulthood. When people abuse them, they will often not recognize it as abuse at all, or they will assume that it is somehow their fault, that they deserved it. Psychically speaking, it is much easier to be a demon living in a world ruled by a benevolent god than to be good living in a world ruled by the devil.53 This tendency to split is intensified for the child with disabilities, who is even more dependent upon the parent for love and nurture than the normal child, and who, aware that it has a disability, is often even more desperate to feel valued and loved by its parents.54 Hence, the physical disability has profound psychological effects that set such children up for further abuse.

Gender difference, of course, also plays a role in determining who among the disabled is most liable to be abused. "[O]ur culture views being female and disabled as ‘redundant,' whereas being male and disabled is a contradiction. . . ."55 Women in the best of circumstances struggle to gain equality of power in loving relationships. There is little question that those with disabilities of any sort—physical, mental or psychological—are especially handicapped in their attempts to achieve relationships of loving mutuality. It has already been noted that women in general have difficulty giving up abusive relationships because they sometimes have no job skills or economic resources by which to support themselves and their children outside of that relationship. This difficulty is redoubled for disabled women who have even fewer opportunities for educational and economic security than able bodied women. Many such women stay, convinced that living with the abuse is still far better than returning to a family that no longer wants them or to an institution where they will likely be subjected to even worse treatment. Even a woman with resources for hiring personal care attendants, thus enabling her to stay in her own home, risks being abused by them. Furthermore, the negative self-images that conspire to keep persons of both genders in abusive relationships are far more common among women than men.56

Needless to say, the disabled elderly are also an especially high risk group for abuse. The slow decline in capacities that mark the move from maturity to old age hits those physically disabled especially hard. In addition, there is a sense in which the elderly "threaten" us as they remind us of our own impending frailty and death. Often adult children of the elderly are called upon to "parent" their own parents as the aging process renders them more and more powerless. Adult children who experience their parents becoming less able physically and mentally often feel "betrayed" by their parents—a loss of the parent/care-taker image. It is a situation ripe for abuse.

Persons with mental disabilities fall into at least two groups: the developmentally disabled who have what are considered subnormal intelligence quotients, and those disabled as a result of accidents or disease processes, such as brain aneurysms, strokes, and Alzheimer's. The developmentally disabled are, needless to say, particularly at risk for being abused. They are often more gullible when others wish to use them for their own purposes. This point becomes particularly salient when one considers the limited social and communication skills of women with a mental disability: their attempts to become engaged in mature social and sexual relationships are too often taken advantage of by men. Such persons will find it harder to distinguish appropriately affectionate behavior expressed by parents or siblings from sexually abusive behavior. When abuse does happen, those with a mental disability—no matter what the cause or gender—find it difficult to protest the abuse, much less to end it. Furthermore, because they have a mental disability, their testimony is seldom admissible in court without a corroborating witness—and that is even less likely to be available in the home than in an institutional context.57

While mental disabilities are usually fairly apparent, psychological disabilities are often hidden. By psychological disability is meant not mental illness, but other sorts of mental impairments, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette's Syndrome, and dyslexia. Persons who are intelligent but still cannot seem to exercise normal control over their impulses, or to perform apparently simply tasks, or to accomplish them in anything but strange, "dysfunctional" ways are frequently misunderstood and blamed for their difficulties.

ADHD children, in particular, have often been subjected to severe abuse. Such children suffer from deficits in attention and effort, and an inability to control their impulses and levels of arousal; they also have need for immediate reinforcement in all that they do well. Too often, parents do not understand that their hyperactivity and impulsiveness are a result of a bioneurological disorder, and so repeatedly punish the child and call the child names when it is behaving "badly." Because these children frequently fail at completing tasks, they are called "dumb" or "lazy." Such name-calling affects their self-esteem and leads to more acting-out and aberrant behaviors. Because of obvious problems coping with normal stresses, activities and tasks, and because the parents become increasingly impatient with the behaviors, the ADD/ADHD child becomes their "problem" child. Hence, he or she serves as a ready scapegoat for all sorts of problems in the family.58 Finally, the child's tendency to constantly dissociate from one focus of attention to another makes it difficult to connect with others and to focus on painful events and memories long enough to put all the pieces of an abusive situation together in a recognizable way. Needless to say, these problems can continue into adulthood and become intensified by the normal everyday demands and expectations placed upon mature adults.

It is important to realize that many persons diagnosed with ADD or ADHD also have histories of extreme violence and abuse, particularly sexual abuse at an early age. Indeed, many of ADD/ADHD's symptoms are identical to those of individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome: inability to focus and/or sit still, heightened anxiety, hyper vigilance, and an inability to filter out distractions. This makes proper diagnosis all the more imperative. Discerning whether these symptoms are the result of bioneurological dysfunction or abuse is essential in determining the appropriate immediate response to the person's problems as well as long-term treatment. Everyone from social workers to church members must refrain from jumping to conclusions about the cause of the person's problems.

A final note: though they speak the truth, many victims of violence and abuse are not believed. This problem is exacerbated for those with disabilities. Often viewed as somehow subhuman, they find that their testimony regarding instances of violence and abuse are rendered doubly suspect. Just as the perpetrator refused to listen to their pleas to stop, so the "innocent" bystander continues that perpetrator's violation of the victim's body and soul by refusing to listen with belief. Jesus came to save not the righteous but the poor and the oppressed. The Church of Christ will only fulfill its mission when it serves as a sanctuary for those who are oppressed, not just by violence and abuse, but also by the added vulnerabilities that disabilities bring with them. The first step in any victim's path to healing is to tell the story of violation over and over again until it is fully integrated into consciousness and can be let go. This process can happen in the midst of the open and empathic listener who affirms the abused person's right to rage against the abuser, so that ultimately the victim may come to forgive and let go of it. For love is patient and kind. . . .(1 Cor. 13). Our churches must become sanctuaries where all are compassionately listened to and believed, engaged and affirmed.

Appendix C: Bibliography


This list is a collection of resources gathered from our committee, other bibliographies and web sites, as well as referrals received from individuals. There are some resources that will be listed in multiple places.


Basham, Beth and Sara Lisherness, eds. Striking Terror No More: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence. Louisville, Ky.: Bridge Resources, 1997. This book is a wealth of information, including articles introducing the types of abuses which might be found within a congregation, class outlines, suggested courses of action, an extended bibliography and a discussion on ways to bring these themes into worship and Bible study. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Amazing Stuff . Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 4-5. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Wonderfully Made. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 2-3. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Confronting Violence Against Women: The Church's Calling This resource packet was prepared by the Society Violence Initiative Team to help the church find creative and faithful solutions to address domestic violence. Includes Striking Terror No More. PDS # 72 700 98 003 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Family Violence. Study Paper approved by the 203rd General Assembly PDS# OGA-91019; Study Guide to the General Assembly Study Paper on Family Violence. Prepared by the Committee of Women of Color. PDS#28391001. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Fowler, Leah. "Violence Against Women." Church & Society magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), September/October 1999. PDS #72-630-99-605. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

God's Gift of Sexuality: A Study for Young People in the Reformed Tradition. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1989. As so many voices are shouting messages about sexuality to our youth, this resource helps youth hear the voice of scripture and the church as they examine their own sexuality. Two separate curriculums are written for Younger Youth (grades 6–8) and Older Youth (grades 9–12), both of which can be used with a small or large group, in a class or retreat setting. Resources are also available for a parent class. DSM# 962201 (grades 6–8), DSM# 962202 (grades 9–12), and DSM# 962203 (Parent's Guide). To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

King, Annie Wu. "Confronting Violence Against Women: The Church's Calling?" Church & Society magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), May/June 1999. PDS #72-630-99-603. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

MacDonald, Bonnie Glass. Surely Heed Their Cry: A Presbyterian Guide to Child Abuse Prevention, Intervention, and Healing. Published by the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network, 1003. PDC # 257-93-010 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Nesbit, John B., III. Intervening in all Domestic Violence Cases: A Call to Restorative Justice. A compelling piece written from the legal perspective. Available from: Office of Criminal Justice, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202. 1.888.728.7228, ext 5803.

Parrot, Andrea. "Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape" and Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Training Manual. These articles are part of the packet Young Women Speak: Issues for Study by College Women, eds. Katie Jacobs and Rebecca Todd Peters, 1994. DMS #72 700 94 991 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

"Surely Heed Their Cry," Horizons magazine PDS# 25793010

Sutton, Jeanette Reed. "Silent No More." Church & Society magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), May/June 1996. PDS# 72-630-96-603 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Toughtalk: Men Confronting Men Who Abuse. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This curriculum offers men the opportunities to discuss and to speak up about family abuse. Item #092003. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

"Under His Thumb: Violence Against Women." Current Issues, Adult Foundational Curriculum, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Ed. Frank Hainer. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, 1992–93.

"Violence". Church & Society magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jan/Feb. 1995. PDS# 72-630-95-601. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

A Vision for Children and the Church. Adopted by the 205th General Assembly. PDS 7028094076.

Youngs, Sharon K. Confronting Domestic Violence: Not Just for Adults. Louisville, KY: Presbyterian church (U.S.A.), 1996. This course, designed for older youth, takes a close look at the dynamics of violence and ways to confront it. PDS #043584. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or


Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP)

Older Adult Ministries

Presbyterian Men

Societal Violence Network, a division of Women's ministries. Under the direction of Sandi Thompson-Royer, this ministry unit has interpreted interpersonal violence issues before the church and trained several persons throughout the country so that they might continue the education and intervention efforts. It also puts out the Societal Violence Network News. Sandy can be reached at 976 E. 10th, Spokane, WA 99202 (509) 534.2307

Women's Ministries Unit


Books & Curriculum

Adams, Carol J. Women Battering. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1994. A practical book written specifically for pastors and congregations involved in the pastoral care of domestic abuse survivors and perpetrators.

Basham, Beth and Sara Lisherness, eds. Striking Terror No More: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence. Louisville, Ky: Bridge Resources, 1997. This book is a wealth of information, including articles introducing the types of abuses which might be found within a congregation, class outlines, suggested courses of action, an extended bibliography and a discussion on ways to bring these themes into worship and Bible study. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Confronting Violence Against Women: The Church's Calling. This resource packet was prepared by the Society Violence Initiative Team to help the church find creative and faithful solutions to address domestic violence. Includes Striking Terror No More. PDS # 72 700 98 003 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Cooper-White, Pamela. The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church's Response. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995. This is a comprehensive and practical assessment of various forms of violence against women and includes appropriate pastoral responses to each.

Eiseland, Nancy L., The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994

Family Violence. Study Paper approved by the 203rd General Assembly. PDS# OGA-91019; Study Guide to the General Assembly Study Paper on Family Violence. Prepared by the Committee of Women of Color. PDS#28391001. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Fortune, Marie M. Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for Abused Women. San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1987. This book addresses issues of faith for abused women. It is an essential resource for victims, pastors and anyone providing pastoral care. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. (206)634.1903 or

Fortune, Marie M. Violence in the Family: A Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 1991. These materials are designed for clergy and those who are seeking to understand the religious issues involved in an abusive relationship. It includes and extensive appendix, resource sections and worship materials. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. (206)634.1903 or

Fowler, Leah. "Violence Against Women." Church & Society magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), September/October 1999. PDS #72-630-99-605. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

God's Gift of Sexuality: A Study for Young People in the Reformed Tradition. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1989. As so many voices are shouting messages about sexuality to our youth, this resource helps youth hear the voice of scripture and the church as they examine their own sexuality. Two separate curriculums are written for Younger Youth (grades 6-8) and Older Youth (grades 9-12), both of which can be used with a small or large group, in a class or retreat setting. Resources are also available for a parent class. DSM# 962201 (grades 6-8), DSM# 962202 (grades 9-12), and DSM# 962203 (Parent's Guide). To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Horton, Anne L. and Judith A. Williamson, eds. Abuse and Religion: When Praying Isn't Enough. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1988. This extensive anthology takes a comprehensive look at abuse and religious issues. It covers all forms of family violence and its authors include both secular and religious leaders working in these fields.

In Her Shoes: Living with Domestic Violence. This is a fast-paced interactive education tool that helps participants experience the ups and downs a battered woman might experience over the course of several years. It also allows reflection on what the community can do. It is published by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and is available through the PC(USA) Societal Violence Network, by calling Sandi at (509)534.2307 or

King, Annie Wu. "Confronting Violence Against Women: The Church's Calling?" Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), May/June 1999. PDS #72-630-99-603 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Miles, Al. Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know. Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 2000. This book is written by a pastor who sensed the need for more information and theological background.

Nesbit, John B., III. Intervening in all Domestic Violence Cases: A Call to Restorative Justice. A compelling piece written from the legal perspective. Available from: Office of Criminal Justice, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202. 1.888.728.7228, ext 5803.

Poling, James N. The Abuse of Power: A Theological Problem. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991. Pastoral Theology addressing sexual violence and the abuse of the vulnerable. This is essential reading for pastors, therapists, and educators.

Renzetti, Claire M. and Charles Miley (eds). Violence (in Gay and Lesbian Domestic Partnerships). Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, Volume 4, #1, 1996.

Sutton, Jeanette Reed. "Silent No More". Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), May/June 1996. PDS# 72-630-96-603 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Toughtalk: Men Confronting Men Who Abuse. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This curriculum offers men the opportunities to discuss and to speak up about family abuse. Item #092003. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Hainer, Frank. "Under His Thumb: Violence Against Women." Current Issues, Adult Foundational Curriculum, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Ed. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, 1992–93.

"Violence." Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jan/Feb. 1995. PDS# 72-630-95-601. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Webb-Mitchell, Brett, Dancing with Disabilities: Opening the Church to All God's Children. Cleveland, OH: United Church Press, 1996; also other publications on this subject.

Weihe, Vernon. Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling and Elder Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. An Excellent "primer" on several areas and issues of abuse.

Wendell, Susan, The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on the Body. NY: Routledge, 1996


Broken Vows: Religious Perspectives on Domestic Violence. This documentary film is a two-part (37 minutes and 22 minutes) presentation on the religious issues of domestic violence. Includes a study guide and educational brochures. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. (206)634.1903 or

Wings Like a Dove: Healing for the Christian Abused Women. This 34 minute video offers hope and healing to abused women and provides educational information to religious groups. Includes a study guide and educational brochures. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. (206)634.1903 or

Web sites and Organizations

The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
"The Center" is the place to begin when looking for resources on faith and violence. It offers pioneer work in the many areas of violence which touch the family and the church. The materials are faith-based (Jewish and Christian) and are offered in English and Spanish. The resources include books, curriculum, a news journal and videos for sale or to rent. Speakers and conference leaders are also on staff. 936 N 34th Street, Ste. 200, Seattle, WA 98103 (206)634.1903

Men Stopping Violence
Some very progressive work is coming out of this organization which is oriented towards men. This site not only offers information, but includes many articles which can be downloaded. Hard copies of the articles are also available at a nominal fee. 1020 DeKalb Avenue, #25 Atlanta, GA 30307 (404) 688.1376

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
This organization provides a national network for state coalitions and local programs serving battered women and their children, public policy at the national level, technical assistance, community awareness campaigns, general information and referrals and publications on domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-537-2238


Books & Curriculum

Adams, Carol J. and Marie Fortune. Violence Against Women and Children: A Theological Handbook. New York: Continuum, 1995.

Bass, Ellen (ed). I Never Told Anyone: A Collection of Writings by Women Survivors of Sexual Child Abuse. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Bass, Ellen and Laura Davis. The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. This handbook has become a classic for those in the healing process.

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Amazing Stuff . Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 4-5. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Wonderfully Made. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 2–3. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Crary, Elizabeth. Without Spanking or Spoiling. Seattle: Parenting Press, 1979.

Family Violence. Study Paper approved by the 203rd General Assembly PDS# OGA-91019; Study Guide to the General Assembly Study Paper on Family Violence. Prepared by the Committee of Women of Color. PDS#28391001. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

God's Gift of Sexuality: A Study for Young People in the Reformed Tradition. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1989. As so many voices are shouting messages about sexuality to our youth, this resource helps youth hear the voice of scripture and the church as they examine their own sexuality. Two separate curriculums are written for Younger Youth (grades 6–8) and Older Youth (grades 9–12), both of which can be used with a small or large group, in a class or retreat setting. Resources are also available for a parent class. DSM# 962201 (grades 6-8), DSM# 962202 (grades 9–12), and DSM# 962203 (Parent's Guide). To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Horton, Anne L. and Judith A. Williamson, eds. Abuse and Religion: When Praying Isn't Enough. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1988. This extensive anthology takes a comprehensive look at abuse and religious issues. It covers all forms of family violence and its authors include both secular and religious leaders working in these fields.

Lew, Mike. Victims No Longer. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. The first comprehensive resource for male survivors of child sexual abuse.

MacDonald, Bonnie Glass. Surely Heed Their Cry: A Presbyterian Guide to Child Abuse Prevention, Intervention, and Healing. Published by the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network, 1003. PDC # 257-93-010 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

"Surely Heed Their Cry." HORIZONS Magazine PDS# 25793010

"Violence." Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jan/Feb. 1995. PDS# 72-630-95-601. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

A Vision for Children and the Church. Adopted by the 205th General Assembly. PDS 7028094076. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Weihe, Vernon. Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling and Elder Abuse. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage, 1998. An Excellent "primer" on several areas and issues of abuse.

Youngs, Sharon K. Confronting Domestic Violence: Not Just for Adults. Louisville, Ky.: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This course, designed for older youth, takes a close look at the dynamics of violence and ways to confront it. PDS #043584. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or


Hear Their Cries. This 40-minute documentary provides definitions, signs for recognizing child abuse, stories of adult survivors, discussion of theological issues including forgiveness and confidentiality, and example of how to respond. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence. (206)634.1903 or

Bless our Children: Preventing Sexual Abuse This powerful video tells the story of one congregation's efforts to include sexual abuse prevention in their children's religious education. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (206-634-1903) or

Websites & Organizations

The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
"The Center" is the place to begin when looking for resources on faith and violence. It offers pioneer work in the many areas of violence which touch the family and the church. The materials are faith-based (Jewish and Christian) and are offered in English and Spanish. The resources include books, curriculum, a news journal and videos for sale or to rent. Speakers and conference leaders are also on staff. 936 N 34th Street, Ste. 200, Seattle, WA 98103 (206)634.1903

Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA)

This site provides good background to abuse issues, opportunities for networking and seminars, and reading lists.


Books & Curriculum

Adams, Carol, et al. 1984. No is Not Enough. San Louis Obispo, CA: Impact. Readable and good on date rape.

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Amazing Stuff . Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 4-5. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Wonderfully Made. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 2-3. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

God's Gift of Sexuality: A Study for Young People in the Reformed Tradition. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1989. As so many voices are shouting messages about sexuality to our youth, this resource helps youth hear the voice of scripture and the church as they examine their own sexuality. Two separate curriculums are written for Younger Youth (grades 6–8) and Older Youth (grades 9–12), both of which can be used with a small or large group, in a class or retreat setting. Resources are also available for a parent class. DSM# 962201 (grades 6-8), DSM# 962202 (grades 9–12), and DSM# 962203 (Parent's Guide). To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Horton, Anne L. and Judith A. Williamson, eds. Abuse and Religion: When Praying Isn't Enough. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1988. This extensive anthology takes a comprehensive look at abuse and religious issues. It covers all forms of family violence and its authors include both secular and religious leaders working in these fields.

King, Annie Wu. "Confronting Violence Against Women: The Church's Calling?" Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), May/June 1999. PDS #72-630-99-603 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Levy, Barrie, (ed). Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger. Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1991. Addresses abuse in intimate relationships among adolescents. Provides intervention and prevention strategies.

Levy, Barrie. In Love & In Danger. Seattle, Wash: Seal Press, 1993.

Levy, Barrie and Patricia Occhiuzzo Giggans. What Parents Need to Know About Dating Violence. Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1995.

Parrot, Andrea. "Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape" and Acquaintance Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Training Manual. These articles are part of the packet Young Women Speak: Issues for Study by College Women, eds. Katie Jacobs and Rebecca Todd Peters, 1994. DMS #72 700 94 991 To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

"Violence". Church and Society Magazine, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jan/Feb. 1995. PDS# 72-630-95-601. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

A Vision for Children and the Church. Adopted by the 205th General Assembly. PDS # 7028094076.

Youngs, Sharon K. Confronting Domestic Violence: Not Just for Adults. Louisville, Ky.: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This course, designed for older youth, takes a close look at the dynamics of violence and ways to confront it. PDS #043584. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or


Love—All That and More. A video series and six session curriculum for youth about healthy relationships. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, 206-634-1903 or

In Love and In Danger: Teen Dating Violence. The Junior League of Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1997. Designed for teachers, parents and teens, this award-winning video provides a compelling and informative look into dating violence. Study guide included. Available through Intermedia, 1700 Westlake Ave., N., #724, Seattle, WA 98109. 1-800-553-8336 or

Organizations & Websites

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
This organization provides a national network for state coalitions and local programs serving battered women and their children, public policy at the national level, technical assistance, community awareness campaigns, general information and referrals and publications on domestic violence. Includes a good section on dating violence.^girlsown/
This site, designed for girls, provides guides and opportunities for reflection on love, respect and abuse in relationships. It is a casual web site with opportunities for interaction.
This site provides resources and education for stopping rape, as well as good information for victims, parents, and friends.


Books & Curriculum

Decalmer, Peter and Frank Glendenning. Eds. The Mistreatment of Elderly People. Seattle: Sage Publications, 1997. This practical guide to elder abuse offers discussions around discernment and response, emphasizing the clinical, legal and psychological impact on a family.

Family Violence. Study Paper approved by the 203rd General Assembly. PDS# OGA-91019; Study Guide to the General Assembly Study Paper on Family Violence. Prepared by the Committee of Women of Color. PDS#28391001. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Horton, Anne L. and Judith A. Williamson, eds. Abuse and Religion: When Praying Isn't Enough. Lexington: Lexington Books, 1988. This extensive anthology takes a comprehensive look at abuse and religious issues. It covers all forms of family violence and its authors include both secular and religious leaders working in these fields.

Weihe, Vernon (1998) Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling and Elder Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. An Excellent "primer" on several areas and issues of abuse.

Websites & Organizations

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
An excellent site with general information, state contacts, and discussions of legal issues.

Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse
This web site offers excellent information on all types of abuse, and has a particularly good section on elder abuse.

Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence
This organization has done pioneering work in the area of elder abuse and is continually coming out with progressive ideas and legal information on the issue. 307 S. Paterson St., Suite 1. Madison, WI 53703 608.255.0539


Books & Curriculum

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Amazing Stuff . Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 4-5. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Burdick, Faye, ed. God's Plan for Growing Up: Wonderfully Made. Louisville: Curriculum Publishing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This faith-based curriculum is designed to assist parents in teaching sexuality to their children in grades 2-3. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

God's Gift of Sexuality As so many voices are shouting messages about sexuality to our youth, this resource helps youth hear the voice of scripture and the church as they examine their own sexuality. Two separate curriculums are written for Younger Youth (grades 6-8) and Older Youth (grades 9-12), both of which can be used with a small or large group, in a class or retreat setting. Resources are also available for a parent class. DSM# 962201 (grades 6-8), DSM# 962202 (grades 9-12), and DSM# 962203 (Parent's Guide). To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

"Surely Heed Their Cry", HORIZONS Magazine PDS# 25793010

A Vision for Children and the Church. Adopted by the 205th General Assembly. PDS # 7028094076.

Weihe, Vernon (1998) Understanding Family Violence: Treating and Preventing Partner, Child, Sibling and Elder Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. An Excellent "primer" on several areas and issues of abuse.

Youngs, Sharon K. Confronting Domestic Violence: Not Just for Adults. Louisville, Ky: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1996. This course, designed for older youth, takes a close look at the dynamics of violence and ways to confront it. PDS #043584. To order, call 1.800.524.2612 or

Websites & Organizations
This highly informative website offers background information, bibliographies and links to other sites. Information is available in English, French, Spanish and German.


Books & Curriculum

Agtuca, Jacqueline. A Community Secret: For the Filipina in an Abusive Relationship. Seattle: Seal Press, 1994.

Burns, Maryviolet (ed). 1986. The Speaking Profits Us: Violence in the Lives of Women of Color. Seattle: The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. This anthology of articles discusses sexual and domestic violence in the lives of Native American, Asian, Black and Latina women.

Eugene, Toinette M. and James Newton Poling. Balm in Gilead: Pastoral Advocacy for African-American Families Experiencing Abuse. Nashville:Abingdon, 1998. Using case studies from individuals who experienced abuse, this cross-cultural work explores theological and ethical themes that are crucial for understanding and revitalizing pastoral care.

National American Indian Court Judges Association. 1991. Child Sexual Abuse in Native American Communities. Petaluma, CA: National Indian Justice Center. This brochure communicates basic information concerning Native American communities and can be ordered from National Indian Law Library, 707.762.8113.

White, Evelyn C. Chain Chain Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships. Seattle: Seal Press, 1994. Second Edition. This resource examines the influences of racism and sexism in domestic violence, and includes updated resources and statistics.

Wilson, Melba. Crossing the Boundary: Black Women Survive Incest. Seattle: Seal Press, 1993. Focuses on the dynamics of sexual abuse as it intersects with gender, class, and race by exploring autobiographical and fictional works.

Zambrano, Myrna M. Mejor Sola Que Mal Acompanada (For the Latina in an Abusive Relationship). Seattle: Seal Press, 1985.

Webites & Organizations

The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence: "The Center" offers pioneer work in many areas of violence which touch the family and the church. The materials are faith-based (Jewish and Christian) and are offered in English and Spanish. The resources include books, curriculum and videos for sale or to rent. Speakers and conference leaders are also on staff. (206)634.1903

National Korean America Service and Education Consortium
This organization writes the issue paper, "Korean American Women and Domestic Violence," which examines the barriers that battered women face in seeking help and present a series of recommendations. Available in English and Korean.

National Center for Victims of Crime
Includes a very helpful Spanish language link.

National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence.
P.O. Box 623, Dunn Loving, VA 22027 703.205.9040 or 800.342.9080


Fortune, Marie M. Violence in the Family: A Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1991. These materials are designed for clergy and those who are seeking to understand the religious issues involved in an abusive relationship. It includes and extensive appendix, resource sections and worship materials. Available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Abuse. (206)634.1903 or

McClure, John S. and Nancy J. Ramsey, (eds). Telling the Truth: Preaching About Sexual and Domestic Violence. Cleveland, OH: United Church Press, 1998.

Shantz, Kathy. 1994. Lord Hear Our Prayers: Domestic Violence Worship Resources. Kitchener, Ontario: Mennonite Central Committee, Canada. This resource is an excellent collection of litanies, prayers, hymns, and sermon themes and resources for Christian Education.


1. The definitions developed in this policy statement are developed from those generally understood among people who work with these issues. We have relied on the resources of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (CPSDV) in Seattle, Washington, as we developed the definitions. [This endnote appears in the Recommendations portion of the report.]

2. Nelle Morton, The Journey Is Home (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), 29.

3. Genevieve Jacques, Beyond Impunity: An Ecumenical Approach to Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, 55. Geneva: World Council of Churches Publications, 2000.

4. Ibid, 57.

5. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Family Violence: Interventions for the Justice System, 1993.

6. American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), 80.

7. Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, & Smith, Child Abuse and Neglect, (1990), 14.

8. American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), 10.

9. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Sex Differences in Violent Victimization, 1994 (NCJ 164508), September, 1997, 13.

10. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, Washington, D.C.,(1995).

11. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (1995). Membership and other information available from the coalition at P.O. Box 18749, Denver, CO 80218-0749.

12. A. Browne & K. Williams (1993), Law and Society Review 23, 75–94.

13. M. Koss, L. Goodman, A. Browne, L. Fitzgerald, G.Keita, and N. Russo,.(1994). No Safe Haven: Male Violence Against Women at Home, at Work, and in the Community, Washington, D.C.:American Psychological Association.

14. Bames, "It's Just a Quarrel," American Bar Association Journal, February 1998, p. 25.

15. Raphael & Tolman, Trapped by Poverty, Trapped by Abuse: New Evidence Documenting the Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Welfare, p. 21 (1997).

16. Domestic and Teen Dating Violence, An information and resource handbook, Metropolitan King County Council, July (1998).

17. Brustin, S., Legal Response to Teen Dating Violence, Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 333334 (Summer 1995) (citing Worcester, A More Hidden Crime: Adolescent Battered Women, The Network News, July/Aug., National Women's Health Network 1993.

18. Orloff et al., With No Place to Turn: Improving Advocacy for Battered Immigrant Women, Family Law Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2, 313 (Summer 1995).

19. 1985 Mejor Sola que Mal Acompanada: For the Latina in an Abusive Relationship, Seattle, Seal Press.

20. Florida Governor's Task Force on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Florida Mortality Review Project, 1997, p. 44, table 7.

21. M. Shepard & E. Pence, Affilia, 3 (1988).

22. V. Wiehe, Sibling Abuse: Hidden Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Trauma (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications (1997).

23. M.Cascardi & K. O'Leary, Journal of Family Violence (1992), 7.

24. L. Feinauer, E. Callahan, & H. Hilton, American Journal of Family Therapy (1996), 24.

25. C. Boyd, B. Guthrie, J. Pohl, J. Whitmarsh, & D. Henderson, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 26 (1994) 243; and C. Wisdom, T. Ireland, & P. Glynn, Journal of Studies on Alcohol 56 (1995), 207.

26. J. Kern & T. Hastings, "Eating Disturbance and Incest," Journal of Clinical Psychology 51, (1995); S. Wonderlich, et al., Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 11 (1996).

27. N. Shields & C. Hanneke, "Comparing the Psychological Impact of Battering, Marital Rape and Stranger Rape. Clinical Sociology Review, 10 (1992), 151–69.

28. M. Cerezo & D. Frias, "Emotional and Cognitive Adjustment in Abused Children," Child Abuse & Neglect 18, (1994) 923–32; P. Kurtz, J. Gaudin, J. Wodarski & P. Howing, "Maltreatment and the School-Aged Child: School Performance Consequences," Child Abuse & Neglect 17, (1993), 581–89.

29. J. Briere, "Treating Adults Severely Abused As Children: The Self-Trauma Model," Child Abuse: New Directions in Prevention and Treatment Across the Lifespan,(1997), 177–204.

30. R. Aguilar & N. Nightingale, "The Impact of Specific Battering Experiences on the Self-Esteem of Abused Women." Journal of Family Violence 9,(1994).

31. V. Wiehe, 1997.

32. V. Wiehe & A. Richards, Intimate Betrayal: Understanding and Responding to the Trauma of Acquaintance Rape. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications (1995).

33. H. Dubowitz, M. Black, D.Harrington, & A.Verschoore, "A Follow-up Study of Behavior Problems Associated with Child Sexual Abuse," Child Abuse and Neglect 17,(1993), 743–54.

34. N. Rodriguez, H. Kemp, S. Ryan & D. Foy, "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Adult Female Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Comparison Study," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65 (1997), 53–59.

35. L. Young, Sexual Abuse and the Problem of Embodiment," Child Abuse & Neglect 16, (1992), 89–100.

36. K. Lawrence & D. Foy, "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Among Battered Women: Risk and Resiliency Factors," Violence and Victims 8, (1993), 17–28.

37. Y. Vissing, M. Straus, R. Gelles, & J. Harrop, "Verbal Aggression by Parents and Psychosocial Problems of Children," Child Abuse & Neglect, 15, (1991), 223–38.

38. M. Straus & R. Gelles, Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers (1990).

39. The following books have been drawn upon in developing the section, "Who Are the Abusers?" David Finkelhor, Child Sexual Abuse. (NY: Free Press, 1984) Nicholas Groth, Men Who Rape (NY: Plenum, 1979) Mary P. Koss,, Male Violence Against Women at Home, At Work, and In the Community. (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1994). Diana Russell, Rape in Marriage (NY: Macmillan, 1982) Diana Russell, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls. (NY: Basic Books, 1986)]

40. Buzawa & Buzawa ed., Do Arrests and Restraining Orders Work? (1996), 195.

41. H. Williams, "End the Domestic Arms Race," Washington Post (1997), p. A19.

42. K. Pillemer & D. Finkelhor, "Causes of Elder Abuse: Caregiver Stress Versus Problem Relatives, "Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59, (1989) 179–87.

43. C. Letourneau, 1981; V. Wiehe, "Empathy and Locus of Control in Child Abusers," Journal Social Services Research 9 (1987), 17–30, (1997).

44. From Violence in the Family, A Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers, 1991.

45. Fortune, Marie M., Ending Sexual and Domestic Violence, The Colorado Trust Monograph Series. We are indebted to Marie M. Fortune for her groundbreaking study in this area.

46. Carol J. Adams, Woman Battering, Fortress Press, Minn., 1994.

47. Reid and Marie Fortune.

48. Marie Fortune.

49. Susan Wendell, "Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability," Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 4:2 (Summer 1989): 104–112.

50. Marvin M. Ellison, Erotic Justice. A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 43.

51. Ynestra King, "The Other Body: Reflections on Difference, Disability, and Identity Politics,"Ms. 3:5 (March-April 1993): 73.

52. Adrienne Asch and Michelle Fine, "Shared Dreams: A Left Perspective on Disability Rights and Reproductive Rights," in Women with Disabilities. Essays in Psychology, Culture and Politics, ed. Michelle Fine and Adrienne Asch (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), 299.

53. Fairbairn, W. R. D., "The Repression and the Return of Bad Objects (with Special Reference to the ‘War Neuroses'), in An Object Relations Theory of the Personality (New York: Basic Books, 1952; originally, 1943).

54. Adrienne Harris and Dana Wideman, "The Construction of Gender and Disability in Early Attachment," in Women with Disabilities, 123–24.

55. Ibid, 23.

56. Adrienne Asch and Michelle Fine, "Introduction: Beyond Pedestals," in Women with Disabilities, 22.

57. Joanna K. Weinberg, "Autonomy as a Different Voice: Women, Disabilities, and Decisions," in Women with Disabilities, 285-86.

58. Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, Driven to Distraction. Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood (New York: Simon & Schuster, A Touchstone Book, 1994), 12, 16, 128.

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