Monday, December 13, 2010

No Place For Abuse

Posted by Hannah at 7:00 AM

One of the very first faith related books I read on domestic violence within the church was 'No Place For Abuse' by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark.  I was reminded again about this book, but I was far from crazy about the description or review.

I remember I was flooded at the time with mixed messages within the faith community that I couldn't figure out WHAT was WHAT!  It was clear to me right away that most didn't realize the impact this has on everyone involved.  I remember doing searches for domestic violence in the church, and very little besides the list of abusive behaviors was present at that time.

Thankfully, that has changed in some ways today.  I started this blog at the time, because I wanted to keep track of what 'little' material there was available.

I looked for this book on Amazon today, and the book cover is different now.  Focus Ministries  sent this to me after I spoke with them on the phone.  I remember soaking it all in, and actually doing a google search for both the authors - Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark.

I found a blog today, and I didn't see an option to respond to the article.  What is the Christian answer to domestic violence? was the name of the article.

The reason the article bothered me so much is parts of it are NOT something the book would recommend, or even went close to mentioning.

What this shows me is that people are more than happy to recommend books for domestic violence in the church, but never bother reading the book themselves.   

People that don't understand domestic violence, and yet offer a description with a recommendation for a book?  If they haven't read it they need to say so.  Otherwise, their recipient of the book will get confused once they read the book, and then compare that to the description that this author offered.  In the case of the article I linked to?  Its a very poor representation of the book, and in the eyes of victim not very inviting at all.

The goal of the book is show God's value towards victims/abusers, and how to deal with domestic violence within the church.  It tends to go against the wording of the article in question, and you have wonder if the author of this article would be 'offended' once they actually DID read it!

Why?  Its not that the material is offensive, but people don't seem to place their 'abuse dynamic' hat on prior to the discussion.

They see ways of handling domestic violence within the Christian home with the same lense as 'normal family dynamics'.  There are circumstances when dealing with domestic violence in which you can't do that, because the two can't mix!  If you don't realize this?  Chances are very good your 'help' will make things worse, and this never even dawned on them I'm pretty certain.

In the very first paragraph?  It starts out right away with the husband's role of authority or head position.  What the recommending party doesn't seem to realize?  Those comments right away with be taken as a hammer over the person's head.  You don't need to tell the abused party that their spouse has authority over them.  You don't need to tell them he is HEAD!

Chances are very good he has been using those scriptures as weapons, and his abusive responses are due to people NOT respecting that office.  The husband's role has already been drilled into the woman as 'earned' once her performance is acceptable to him.  Reminding her again of his role, and then throwing in a couple of scripture on HIS role?  They don't seem to understand it will not be taken as they intended.

It will trigger them back into terrorizing memories.  So far you aren't taking her to a good place!

Within a relationship of domestic violence there is always a 'power and control' aspect.  People that are NOT familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence?  They seem to think they understand it, but the followup and comments clearly show their understanding is not present.

I realize people love to MOCK the words 'power and control', but that generally is because they don't know what it is.  YES of course I realize they THINK they do!

If people truly in their hearts of hearts WISH to help?  They will learn to understand what the term 'power and control' outside of some LIST of behaviors you find in trying to explain aspects of it.  They lists are helpful to a point.  You need to recognize the application of it. 

The dynamics of power and control are the same no matter whom is the victim or abuser is. Its a key ingredient to any aspect of abuse - emotional, verbal, spiritual, etc.  It doesn't matter if the abuser is male, female or even a child.  That power and control is a habitual pattern within the relationship.  If people can't recognize this?  They will not do the family any good at all no matter how awesome their willingness is to help.

They basically will be trying to show people how to make bread without the flour in their ingredients list.  Seriously!

The article has some good scripture to present, and I'm not saying that is not applicable.  The presentation shows to me the person whom 'copy and pasted' this article truly didn't do their homework.

Victims of domestic violence need to be protected, even moved temporarily to a safe place if necessary. If a wife is being abused by her husband, she needs to separate herself from him while he receives treatment for his violence. Once a Bible-believing Christian counselor has deemed it appropriate for the couple to reunite, they should make every effort to reconcile and live in peace, while continuing marriage and/or family counseling.
You know what this would tell me years ago?  It would tell me I'm not safe with this person.  Their agenda is to get my back home with him - the very thing he wants as well.  They are double teaming me, and I feel intimidated.  It doesn't recognize the true fear, terror, and broken trust within the relationship. 

1)  Moved if necessary?  Anyone that is 'serious' about domestic violence, and protecting all the family members wouldn't word it like this.  To the victim they are already showing the 'doubt' of their true reality, and they have uphill battle already with trying to convince them of the danger within their lives.  I don't think people want to send that signal if they are serious about helping.

2)  Anyone that has worked with abusers or victims of domestic violence knows that both parties are going to need separate types of help.

3)  The victim is truly the one that needs to 'deem' it appropriate for reconciliation.  I'm not saying counselor's aren't involved with this process, but the counselor shouldn't be the one in authority over that decision.  The experienced counselor with domestic violence is more likely to take those cues from victims.

Its been shown that abusers can manipulate the system, and sadly most that aren't properly trained miss truly important signals.  Trained means more than reading some articles or books.  There even has been trained professionals that will admit they were snowed as well, so its not as easy as some think it is.

Abusers have a lifetime experience in this area, and have found what works.  They have trained themselves to be the best of con man for lack of a better description.  They didn't get this way overnight, and they function well with others at times due to the nature of the con man ways.  Charm, Friendly, etc.  There almost always is motive behind it.

To continue, if pressure is placed upon the victim/s to reconcile before they are ready?  Get ready for things to blow up in your face.  It's not uncommon for them NOT to return to these sources of help when additional issues arise.

They have proven themselves unsafe.  They told me I had to go back when I wasn't ready, and now I'm in danger again.   I don't know if I should risk giving them a chance once again.  They didn't listen to me the first time.

On the other hand:  Some victims will stay put up and take additional abuse, and the abuser this time goes to lengths to make sure it isn't brought into the open.  Victims will feel this is their burden to carry, and their abuser makes sure to isolate them enough that reaching out for help again would be very dangerous for them.

Abusers love to mock the victims about how no one believed them.  How they took their side.  How they think they are nuts, weak, and blowing things out of proportion.   They fell for his game, and they remind the victim they can do it again.  If they have to do this again?  The victim knows they will pay dearly.

Sadly, I truly feel most don't realize the extent of the damage that is done.  The trust is not there, and there is fear present when wondering if trust is even possible.  Most people don't seem to realize there is GOOD reason for that.

They love the abuser most of the time, but they also know how dangerous they can be.  Most of the time?  The people 'wanting' to help don't take their word for it.  Its strange how others seem to think they know the spouse MORE than the partner isn't it?

To be fair?  I'm sure its due to dynamics within the relationship that they can't relate to at all.  They need to place that to the side, because domestic violence doesn't make sense most of the time.

Lets take an example OFF the top of my head!  Spouse comes home from work, and the children have this lego town they want to show him!  He decides to join in the fun!  Next day, we walks in and kicks the legos across the room because EVERYONE knows he doesn't like a mess when he gets home.

The surprising aspect is NO the members of the family don't know which mood he will be when he gets home.  Its surprise.  One of terror or normal family life.  They can't grasp the 'no prior warning' aspect of this.  lol can't blame them!

Helpers at times make victims feel worse by reminding them they are due love and respect the abuser.  How they need to think of more GOOD things about their abuser.  I'm not say do the opposite and have an abuser hater party okay?  People always tend to go there, and that is NOT what people are saying!

This period of separation is to make them feel safe.  They need to be encouraged, uplifted, and made to feel they are worth love.  That God doesn't wish them to be abused.  You are talking about someone that may have a lousy sense of self worth.   They blame themselves for the abuse.  They don't feel they have the right to be safe, and say NO to further abuse.

Telling them to FEEL the good aspects of the abuser like we are asked to in healthy relationships?  It doesn't have the same result.  They can tell you the good aspects of the abuser - everyone has them!  You need to show and guide them how to deal with the bad ones.  That would be asset to them.  Asking them JUST to look at the good?  How does that make dealing with the abusive dynamic better?  To say they might get to negative if you don't use this approach?  This naive helper needs to pass the baton to someone else.  No offense.  Victims tend to use that exercise to often to cope with abuse, and you don't enable them to continue to use it.  Think about how effective its been so far!  When they start to blame themselves for the abuse?  You will catch my drift - believe me!

We also need to make sure they have a safe avenue to voice their anger.  They have stuffed feelings good and bad for years.  They were not allowed feelings.  It may at first be caustic, or even at times a slow simmer.  Some say things you may be surprised at, because once they feel safe to voice their anger?  All those times they cowarded in the corner, knew they were in danger, wonder if they would ever be safe, and all those recordings of the ugly, nasty things the abuser said and have done may surface.

They need to be allowed to let them surface, even at first when you feel it maybe unhealthy.  The rage will settle down in time.

There is a big difference between allowing the toxic ick to get out of your system, compared to those parties that tend to allow themselves to marinade in it.  We are working for the FIRST!

Let them get mad and allow them to mourn.  YOU are suppose to be the safe one, and be careful about correcting them at this stage.  They may know its wrong, but the overwhelming sensation after stuffing things down for years?  At times its better to let them get it out of their system.  You might be surprised at additional evil things that happened in that home during these periods.  Things you may have never know about.  It will help for the future.  You will get a better grasp on whom you are dealing with.  Anger at times allows those things to come out into the open when they feel its safe to do so.


This is the stage that people tend to RUSH.  WELL if the victim doesn't hurry up and make up their mind the abuser may just give UP!

They never stop to think that this doesn't show true change does it?  The process isn't done for the abuser to feel more comfortable.  It's a longer process than most are willing to deal with, and sadly they rush it and make things worse.

With abusive personalities they may wish to RUSH to repent.  Its almost like tearing off the bandaid quickly to get it over with.  Humbling themselves to help in the healing process for the victims at times is almost intolerable for abusers.  Some are sadly incapable of it - its to much to bear.

We need to keep in mind in order to heal they have no true choice in the matter.  They MUST go there!

They are quick to remind everyone we already went over this material once we don't need to do this again.

Human healing doesn't work that way, and to be perfectly honest with you?  THAT is why you get the push to reconciliation.

They can control those conversations more with you OUT of the picture.  If they see you getting SCARED he/she will abandon the process?  They know what button to push, and you are enabling them to do just that when it turns to pressure towards the victim.  They are playing you like a fiddle!

Sadly, some they do abandon the relationship.  They may continue to terrorize the family, but they also look for a new victim.  Their abusive patterns tend to start all over again.  Its easier for them to find a victim then to change their ways.  They don't see the incentive for them.

The "What's in it for me?" part isn't good enough.  They may whine they wish their family back, but in reality they want the power and control back.  It's addictive, and they never have enough. 

This paragraph makes you feel this 'rush' in the presentation.

This is only possible if both parties are willing to commit their lives to Christ and make God the head of their household. They should find a local Bible-teaching Christian church, and commit themselves to membership. They should also find spiritually mature Christians who are willing to disciple them either individually or in a small group. The benefits to this are many, including accountability for their actions. “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you” (Psalm 9:9-10).
You get the impression from the above paragraph that neither party has done this - Committing their live to Christ.  We see in families all the time when one spouse has this strong commitment, and the other either doesn't or has long their way.

This type of approach is very offensive.  Most of the time the victims stay due to their 'commitment' to Christ, and the abuser stays because it has benefits for them.

I'm sure a good church can benefit people, but again you need to be SURE that the victim is comfortable with the abuser being there.  That may not always be the most wise thing having them together at the time.  Accountability WITH the abuser is not recommended either.  You are placing the family in a very dangerous spot.

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you” (Psalm 9:9-10).

God is our corner HOW TRUE!

We can not help others dealing with domestic violence with this almost ''happily ever after' mentality you see coming from the church.  They seem to deal with things in formulas.

IF you have enough faith things will work out.
IF you love and respect your abuser they will return those things to you.
If you follow our counsel instead of questioning it your marriage will be restored.
IF you would just go back to them so they don't fear you will leave them.

Life doesn't always work with formulas.  At times we must sadly allow the abuser to go on their way.  The bible states that some will never follow.  At times victims are to afraid to allow their abusers close again.  We need to show them comfort to help get them over the fear, and not shame them for this.

Waneta Dawn wrote a book called, Behind the Hedge.  If you are like most that tend to learn more by watching or observing behaviors or dynamics?  This would be a good book for you, and it shows the struggles of all parties involved.  I have a good description of it in my recommended reading section.

Its sad whom ever wrote the review for this good book didn't bother reading it.  I would recommend, "No Place for Abuse"No Place for Abuse: Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence

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Anonymous said...

Hannah, a supportive friend sent me that article before I left my abusive relationship. At that time, I was thrilled that a Christian article endorsed separation, because my advice was that I could not or should not separate.

But reading another article on the site ( about divorce for abuse concerned me. Although there isn't anywhere to respond or comment, there are contact details so you can write to them. That's what I did, and my concerns were exactly what you referred to. It is incredible how people dismiss the experience of the abused victim and deny her the right to judge or observe the abusers' changes. Her safety is also discounted, with the recommendation to reconcile taking priority as soon as things look "safe". There is no acknowledgement of the abusive cycle, or the manipulative tactics involved.

But the great thing is that I saw the recommendation for that book and being new to all of this, I was hungry. One thing led to another, and I slowly gained more information and insight to abusive behavior, and eventually separated.

Thanks for your post - if only more people challenged the type of thinking propagated by that article.

Hannah on 8:35 AM said...

If I'm correct I think gotquestions is connected to Focus on the Family, or James Dobson. I'm going by memory here with no coffee though!

Jocelyn Anderson called them on some of their other ideas

and then they changed their advice.

If you read the comments for both articles? They didn't go far enough to correct the mistake.

The author of the articles still endorses 'love my be tough', which the advise was basically 'parroted' from. It seems they have one humble employee there, but it also seems he was forced to recommend the source anyway.

If the organization was serious? They would have stripped the article, and left a letter of explanation.

Amy on 4:29 PM said...

"Life doesn't always work with formulas. At times we must sadly allow the abuser to go on their way. The bible states that some will never follow. At times victims are to afraid to allow their abusers close again. We need to show them comfort to help get them over the fear, and not shame them for this."

When my almost-ex left me and our boys 2 years ago after 20 years of an abusive marriage, I was told over and over by a few people from my old church (all men) that I just needed to forgive and forget, and reconcile because God hates divorce. I was told by these same men how they saw change in my husband, but when I refused to believe it because of the truth that the Lord was showing me, I was judged and condemned for just not trying to make the marriage work. :(

I finally left that church last summer, but keep in touch with the pastor. Just recently I met with him to keep him up to date on what is happening re: our divorce (I just now filed) he had finally come to realize how my almost-ex had not really changed but was just talking it up. I finally shared with the pastor all that had happened two years ago with the way people from the church had treated me and what had really happened. He simply said, "I didn't know."

The most judgmental and unforgiving people tend to be in the Christian community. I'm almost sad to refer to myself as a Christian and when people ask me if I am, I usually reply that I am a follower of Jesus.

Hannah on 7:52 AM said...

Well if that pastor has any salt within him he will look into the bottleneck, and educate himself. I pray that he does indeed do that for the next person. If he can't humble himself enough to realize how much his church failed both of you - those in his leadership may never grasp it either.

I think that is one of the biggies. They tell people 'not to keep up with the Jones', and yet they fear taking a stand and ruining their image. 'I might be seen as endorsing divorce'

If their congregation is so black and white? They truly have bigger issues, and those will never get addressed either if you think about it.

I pray that he takes his knowledge and uses it for good. I'm sorry you had to deal with this dynamic. I agree with your opinion, and a follower of Jesus is a good reference!

Anonymous said...

Hannah, I don't know if the root of that fear of endorsing divorce comes from a misunderstanding of Scripture. Of course, for pastors who are abusers, it is more of not wanting the women to leave. But for the others, they sincerely believe that the Bible does not endorse divorce because that doctrine has been taught so widely. So while they recognize times when it is dangerous for the women to stay, they still can't get around women divorcing.

If the works of Instone-Brewer (Divorce and Remarriage in the Church) and Barbara Roberts (Not Under Bondage) are more pushed and recognized, people might change their mind. That verse from Mal 2:16 (God hates divorce) is often quoted but totally misunderstood. If that alone could be challenged, a lot of their arguments for trying to keep abused women in their marriages would break down.

Hannah on 7:57 AM said...

Yes, it is strange how people do not read that chapter of the bible with their 'God Hates Divorce' verse. God speaks out about the behavior, and the hearts of men (mankind really). The core of the chapter is about behavior or an major heart issue, and they make it about 'divorce'.

Mal 2:17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

I know my mother's family was trapped in there is no way out, and danger was within their home. My grandmother died thinking she did her duty, and everyone stood clear of my grandfather. They end up helping no one, and yet think God delights in the fact they stayed married for 60+ years. The marriage was the crowning glory, but they ignore the evil that stood behind it.

This thinking wearies the Lord. I think pride stops them from looking at Barbara's or Brewer's work. They would have to admit they and their forefathers were wrong. There is a bit more to the black and white thinking. Its easier to say people like them 'endorse' divorce than to deal with the truth they speak about.

I remember reading an article that Piper wrote about an article Brewer had in a Christian Magazine. Piper basically said that Brewer handed everyone the right to divorce, and ignored everything else the man said.

Fear, Pride, Enmeshment - I suppose they all play a part.

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