I had been out of commission for a host of reasons recently, but felt drawn to post of the loss of Danni.
Because it Matters was her blog, and her writing style and viewpoints will be greatly missed. The link I supplied is part of her story of attempting to grasp how to deal with domestic violence within the church, and how the church in her circumstance - along with many others - just didn't know what to do about it.
I was surprised to find that my pastors would not stand against the abuse in my marriage, even when they knew I was telling the truth about it. The first time I left Gary, my pastors (SBC church) were shocked at my accusation of abuse. They did not believe me.
I later learned that apparently a huge percentage of women who leave their husbands claim abuse as the reason. Abuse is a nice hot-button word that, at one time perhaps, engendered automatic horror and sympathy. Now (and perhaps always, I don’t know) there is so much concern that accusations might be false pastors “err on the side of caution” and are more likely to disbelieve an accusation of abuse than to take it seriously.
The church provided counseling from an elder who was also a professional certified counselor. In our first session, which was when I told Gary I was leaving him (he didn’t know before then because I was afraid of him) the counselor got to see his anger.
However, Gary’s facade never completely cracked in public in 20 years of marriage. Only one time did he ever reveal his rage to someone outside his own family (wife and children) and that was to his sister. But to her it was a one-off anomaly. For us it was a way of life. When I tried to tell counselors about his anger they discounted it, thinking I meant “anger” in the way we all sometimes get angry. By anger I meant uncontrolled rage. But if I used the word “rage” with counselors they just heard “anger” and discounted it.
Danni speaks of the roadblocks that are placed in front of the victim of domestic violence. She speaks on how they err on the side of caution, and when you speak of the uncontrolled rage how they discount it.
Properly trained counselors do know how to go about seeking truth compared to falsehood. I do believe that since the church has a motive of keeping marriages together at all costs they ignore parts of that training. I have to wonder at times if some of them get trained in that area at all.
I have seen and read numerous calls for help, and how people speak of this uncontrolled rage - and it was also ignored and discounted. Most of the time people are told to concentrate on their sin, and then try to find that sin to focus on to get the point across.
So many times I have seen online people being told they have to do this because their spouse isn't there to give the other side to the story, and yet in Danni's case the same treatment was given when that other side was clear to everyone. He was there and showed his true colors up close and personal.
This counselor knew these things were happening in our home; I told him everything. He said he believed me. In hindsight though, as a licensed counselor, he either did not believe me or he deliberately chose to violate the law because he did not report it to the authorities. I didn’t know then that he was legally required to report abuse if he was told about it.
But his attitude was the same as I found from every other Christian counselor (except the one who did report my husband). Saving the marriage was their only consideration. This first church counselor told me that I had no grounds for a divorce, period. I started proceedings toward divorce because, while he was crying on everyone’s shoulders in public, in private Gary was threatening to charge me with child abuse, to take the children and run out of state, to cut me off financially, etc. I consulted with several professionals and they told me my only protection was to get a divorce.
When the church places 'grounds for divorce' ahead of personal safety I have to wonder if they have totally lost their prospective that Jesus would have them see. When legally you are told that the only way you can protect yourself and your child/children is divorce to escape domestic violence why does the church see 'saving the marriage' as their only consideration.
Laws are different all over the place, and yes at times your only protection is filing. You are placed between a rock and a hard place when you throw your faith into this reality. The church will claim you don't have forgiveness in your heart, and your hard heart is the real issue. The true reason for these actions are completely ignored, because they see no biblical reason for the divorce.
When you are told that God stands for truth, mercy, grace, love, etc. ? When you are told how and why Jesus died on the cross for us? It boggles the mind of everyone 'outside the church' and YES some of us 'inside' that people use legalism instead of plain common sense. You don't tell people to stay in harms way when they ask for help, and yet this is what is encouraged.
The church doesn't help the family, nor the abuser in this instance. You have to wonder WHY they feel justified?!
However, I told the counselor and my pastors that I would stop the divorce if Gary gave any indication of repentance. The pastors and counselor promised they would keep that qualification a secret. After winning me back with an amazing repentance performance (that I didn’t realize until years later was all private – he never acknowedged publically that he had done anything wrong) Gary slipped and told me one of the pastors had told him I would drop the divorce if he repented. Still later, he denied it. But how would he have even come up with such a statement in the first place if the pastor hadn’t told him?
In this first separation, the church denied the reality of the abuse in my home, failed to report the abuse allegations to the authorities, and betrayed my confidence to Gary, enabling him to manipulate me back into the marriage with their support and blessing.
This is another factor I see all to often. The 'means to the end' to keep that family together.
They don't wish to deal with the sin directly, but manipulate factors to accomplish their goal. Is it any wonder why the divorce rates are the same as the world's? The church will blame the parties within the marriage, and yet ignore their own portion of it.
Its like a weed in your yard. You can see the weed, and pull out the surface along the grass line. As you know unless you find the root to remove - the weed will grow back. I hear all to often about the parties 'lack of faith', or 'belief in truth'. Why they can't acknowledge their 'means to the end' shows just that is beyond me!
The second time I separated from Gary the pastors of my church (the same church) did believe me. I had started telling them things were slipping back into old patterns within a couple years of our previous separation. By “old patterns” I was talking about the physical violence. It wasn’t until about the time I left him for the final time that I acknowledged the verbal abuse was just as serious a problem.
Four years after our first separation, I took our oldest son, J, to a Christian counselor recommended by a pastor friend (who later became our pastor). My goal was for us to learn how not to push Gary’s buttons and cause his anger and violence – I still didn’t understand that Gary was responsible for his own anger and rage choices.
When I told the counselor what was happening, culminating in Gary punching J in the stomach in front of neighbor children when I was away from home, she told me she would talk to J to see what he said, but if he said the same thing I had, she was required by law to report Gary to the authorities. And she did.
Even though my pastors believed me the second time, I was clearly told they would do nothing. Well, to be specific, the senior pastor called me into his office for a meeting. He told me that he believed it could be that I had no choice but to get a divorce (which I was not pursuing at that time) if Gary did not repent of his abuse. But at the same time he told me not to tell anyone he had said so – which I correctly interpreted to mean he wasn’t going to say so in public or make any move to stand up for us.
Keeping up appearances, and making a half hearted attempt to deal with reality is yet another roadblock.
Dealing with abuse of any kind is ugly, and there are never any good answers.
The church will acknowledge the the spouse can't change the other spouse, but the follow up in how to deal with that reality is sorely lacking. Pray for a miracle, and just do your part is normally the pat answer. You are then set a drift to do this on your own. Some things are just to dirty to deal with for the church, and they wonder WHY people feel betrayed?!
They guilt trip the party that is clearly asking for help, and yet never confront and deal with the abusive party. You are told to come and ask for help when you need it, and yet you are handed basically nothing. Acknowledgment, Validation, and even someone saying 'I don't know how to help you' would go a long way, and yet that would go against the appearance they need to give. You are asked to walk on eggshells around this person, and somewhat told they 'know its wrong' without truly STATING it like they need to.
Gary did not want us to have anything to do with the counselor who reported him to the authorities, telling me our former counselor discredited her (I never heard it directly from the source but I believed him at the time). I didn’t trust the counselor from our church that we had previously, based on what had come out of that experience.
A close friend and mentor offered to provide counseling. She was not a Baptist (which was a positive factor to me by that time) and I had seen God use her, so I trusted her. She was not a professional counselor but had majored in counseling in some capacity in school.
However, she did not believe I should have separated from Gary. In her theology that was never acceptable since it was “putting asunder” what God had joined. This was lack of godly submission on my part. In our 4-5 sessions she focused on me during all but one. She never believed me about the abuse or violence. And after just a few sessions she told me “God said” it was time for us to get back together.
Nothing had been addressed. Gary never had to acknowledge what he had done and he definitely came out of that separation believing he had been vindicated. My heart shattered in a million pieces. But I obeyed her because that’s what I’d always been taught to do.
Enabling is yet another tool in the chest to keep the marriage together at all costs.
The authorities and church will acknowledge that abuse is happening, and yet you don't 'put asunder' what God has joined. Don't deal with the sin, and ask the victims to 'submit more'. When a broken person doesn't have to admit their actions? When nothing is dealt with? Where is the incentive for the sinful behaviors to stop? Where is his incentive to become the man that God would wish him to be? Where is the support the whole family needs during this trial that the church claims THEY will be there for?
Due to the fact Danni 'obeyed' as she had been taught? To the church it shows the 'lie' they assumed was there. It wasn't that bad. No one sees how victims get nailed if they leave (sin), or if they stay when told they must (SEE it wasn't that bad afterall!).
Gary convinced the social worker that I had taught J to be rebellious. He convinced the social worker and everyone else who would listen that J was so violent and rebellious that he (Gary) was only defending himself and standing up for his honor when he hit his son on a very regular basis. No one would listen to me when I tried to tell them J was responding back to his father in exactly the same tone of voice, profanity, and attitude that his father used toward him. The people in Gary’s required anger management course told him if their son back-talked them they’d hit him, too.The church also forgets about the children.
For the remainder of our marriage, Gary believed it was his right to hit back “in self defense, to stand up for himself as a man”, physically or verbally, every time he could egg one of the boys into a fight. And he was usually the one doing the “egging” – he just didn’t swing first, so he could say he never “started it.”
This incident cemented J’s hardness toward God because the church and the system that was supposed to protect him, blamed him. He knew from then on, his father would always be believed and he would be the “bad guy.” It happened over and over. My health broke down due to the stress at this point.
I don't know how many times articles about how children are better off with 'two' parents are placed out there to encourage you not to divorce or separate. They stress the damage you are going to do to the children.
Abusers don't just target their spouses. The abusive behaviors they refuse to acknowledge within the homes, and the pressure to 'keep together' are damaging the children. Children don't even have to be direct targets of the abuse for them to be effected, and yet no one will go there.
When children start to break under the pressure of the abusive environment once again the abuser gets off.
People tend to take the path of less resistance. Its easier to blame the parent and children than it is the abuser directly. Who is more likely to 'bow' to their pressure? The frighten people or the abuser they know will ignore them?
You would think people would grasp that this woman needed help if her husband was even this cruel as she struggled with her chemo treatments, and fought to survive.I wanted to believe that this time the reconciliation would be different. I desperately wanted it to be OK. If more submission was the problem then that’s what I wanted to do. But I couldn’t understand why his abuse and violence were always excuseable. Why was his anger always excuseable but no one else was allowed to have any emotions other than delight in his every thought or expression – even the nastiest ones?
After our second separation, we ended up changing churches for reasons unrelated to our marital issues. We went back to a church we had attended the first couple years of our marriage. Through one thing and another the pastors of this church were aware of our marital situation through the intervening years.
It didn’t take long before they began to see problems with Gary themselves. This was surprising to me because no other pastor had ever bothered to pay attention enough to see problems. They proved for themselves that he was a liar, manipulative and controlling; this had nothing to do with our marriage or family issues.
When Gary’s anger, rage and literal expressions of hatred toward me increased while I was sick after chemo I realized it was never going to end. This time I didn’t attempt counseling. I knew what would happen; it had all happened before. I also felt that God was very specifically leading me to get a divorce - an assertion that has gotten me a lot of flack. But I’ve been listening to that voice for a long time; I know what it sounds like. I had also told Gary after the second separation that if he escalated again I would get a divorce. And that’s what I did.
However, when I told my pastors I was getting a divorce I was surprised to find they were not supportive – even though they knew I was telling the truth. But one pastor said, while I might need to get a divorce for the safety of myself and my children, I could never remarry since there was no known sexual adultery. I have no idea whether Gary’s subsequent remarriage would change his opinion about this. The other pastor said I had no grounds for divorce since there was no known sexual adultery – regardless of the abuse going on in our home. The logic which would allow him to kill me but not have sex with someone else escapes me.
Instead of support that was clearly needed to escape a dangerous person? She receives speeches about how she can't marry again, and how she doesn't have 'grounds' for divorce biblically. No one stepped up to give her other alternatives, and her and the children were set adrift. The 'world' sees this type of behavior, and is it any wonder WHY they question things?
The church looks like a bunch of fools (rightfully so), and yet makes excuses that the world hates them and reminds themselves that Jesus told them they would. They don't grasp that they are not showing the world the values they claim they represent. When Jesus told his disciples that other people would know that they were His disciples because of their love for one another (John 13:35), He was telling them about the main characteristic of a true Christian. As in Danni's circumstances and many others that love for one another to me isn't present, and what the world is sensing as well. Instead of acknowledging this? Well all we have to do is read more of her story....
I was very hurt by this, even though I understood why they said the things they did and they weren’t ugly or mean about it. What pastors (speaking in general of all the pastors I had) don’t realize is that when they don’t stand up for abuse victims, by default they stand up for the abuser. The victim needs the protection of the church leadership at least standing up to say, “this person is getting a divorce with cause. We know about it, we know the details, and we agree the cause is valid.”I realize that churches at times don't see this part, and at times like alot of the dynamics they don't wish to see. They to often sprinkle spiritual pixie dust around, and hope it just goes away.
Even if they don’t give details, taking a stand for abuse victims when asked keeps the abuser from poisoning people against the victim — which will happen, guaranteed. It happened with me and really hurt that Gary went around telling people a variety of lies about me and muddied the water. I still do not feel completely comfortable in that church because I know there are people there who see me the way Gary painted me, even without realizing it.
When it doesn't and the marriage fails we see the bolded portion of what she quoted on her facebook page.
I'm a 40-something single mom starting over after 20 years of marriage. I'm loving learning to be myself; life is so interesting and fun! I'm an information sponge and endlessly curious about everything, so school suits me to the core.It seems to me at times if you can't go along with the program, and use denial - pretend things are like this - etc. you are treated like the leper in church. It amazes me how the church will step up and out for causes such as abortion, homosexuality, etc because they feel they are called to do so. When it comes to the dynamics that tear apart families apart they remain silent if truly look at what they have to offer.
I've been in school the past couple years, pursuing a degree in psychology. This was mostly a second choice, since I had basically faced the reality that I was not going to be acceptable in church - and my passion is to bring healing to hurting Christians.
However, over the past year I have gradually come to realize that I don't have to settle for second choice. I have finally found a church home where I can have a place and be fully accepted. I have also found a Bible college whose theology I can agree with where I can train for full-time ministry. So I am trusting for provision to be able to go that direction.
That is the part that I felt betrayed by the most. When you have tragic circumstances in your life, and you find their formula isn't addressing your safety concerns? The grace Christians claim they give because Jesus called them to isn't present. Some people get mad at God, but its not God that did this. God would not allow people like Danni to feel unacceptable in his eyes - humankind is the one to blame for that. They just use God as their excuse.
Danni I feel Jesus was speaking of you when he said:
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:18-19)
Jesus chose you, and you are now finally out of pain. You will be missed!
So why will pastors not take a stand for the abused within their churches?I do hope the family decides to keep her blog up for others to read. She did bring healing to hurting Christians - her passion!
One, they don’t want to make a mistake in taking sides. If an abuser denies the allegation of abuse, they are afraid not to believe him (or her). However, from the first separation I begged my pastors to follow the Mt. 18 pattern for church discipline. But they wouldn’t do it and follow through to the final step of withdrawing fellowship. The problem with this is, when pastors will not “take sides” they are taking sides. They are taking the side of evil and leaving the abused abandoned in their abuse. The hurt of this is overwhelming!
Pastors are also afraid of creating division in the church. This is the ostrich approach to the issue, I suppose. Unfortunately, the Bible says that those who sin are to be rebuked publicly so others will see and fear. The silence of the church on the issue of abuse is contributing to its continued growth because abusers are affirmed in their behavior. So by saying nothing pastors are “calling evil good” and enabling evil to continue.
The big one though is that pastors don’t want to be guilty of “putting asunder” what God has put together. They take one statement by God (repeated two or three times in the Bible) out of the context of the whole and elevate it above every other consideration. As I outlined in my article on the theology of an abusive marriage, the Bible has more to say about the issue of abuse. Besides the little bit in that article, there is even more Scripture has to say about marriage and abuse as well. But seminaries and Bible colleges don’t teach the rest of the Word on the subject of marriage.
I suspect when pastors fail to take a stand against abuse in marriages, they are afraid of either making a mistake that would earn them God’s wrath or they are afraid of gaining the disapproval of church members who have the power to ruin their careers.
Until something changes, abuse will abound in Christian marriages. The Bible does have an answer for the issue of abuse and that answer isn’t silence and denial.
I pray that pastors can humble themselves enough to read some of her story and insights. I hope they can take the pain she and her children had to deal with, and learn to change how they approach this subject. Was the heat that she was asked to take justified so the church didn't have to deal with some?
As tears stream down my face I ask for prayers especially for her young daughter that will now have to live with him full time. Danni's family will be in my prayers, and I hope they will find ways of protecting that young child. I pray for Gary as well so that he may find healing for himself, and be the man that God wishes him to be.
For me Danni - one hurting Christian you have touched ....Thank YOU! Your love and passion for God and for the world didn't go unnoticed. I hope your wisdom in your blog is used in the future so that others don't have to deal with the pain of domestic violence within the church as well.
A quote she enjoyed ... "A strong man stands up for himself. A stronger man stands up for everyone else." -- heard on a kids show, of all places. I think that fits her to a tea!
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