Announcing: DV Guide for Churches
In my last blog, I shared what happened to me when I asked my church for help when I was being abused. Then I asked the question, “Have you ever sought help from your church for domestic violence? If so, what happened?” I got many responses, all of which made me sad. Not one person said their church helped them and made their lives better. On the contrary, 100% of the responders told me how badly the church let these abuse victims down. I will share a portion of the responses. Names have been changed to protect these survivors.
Danita – I was told to submit, to have more sex, and to stay quiet. Even though they are mandatory reporters, they did not report the abuse or death threats I received. They threatened to have my kids taken away. They came to court to testify for my abuser and lied on the stand.
Jennifer – I received zero beneficial help. If anything they made my problems ten times worse. One of the “gems” of advice was: imagine you and your husband are in a room with no doors or windows. Intimating that we stay in the room until it’s sorted. Horrible. I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I started the process of legal separation and I was told I was holding a gun to my husband’s head by my actions. I finally left but the emotional toll has been enormous.
Leah – My pastor completely took my ex-husbands side – he didn’t believe anything I said. He wanted me to stay in the marriage and not doing so was a sin and whatever happens to me happens. All the while my ex was fake crying. I felt like I just walked into the enemy’s camp. I was treated horribly.
Jane – When I first called for help, they told me to stay in my home until THEY could sort out what was really happening. Then when I left anyway, it got worse – of course with him, but also and especially at church. They let him continue leading children’s groups. When he surprise “visited” my kids and me, I went before a judge and got a restraining order. The next day, a pastor broke into my counselling session, handed me the phone number of the local law enforcement and told me I had to get the restraining lifted or modified. They wanted to keep him working with the children’s groups. They were angry at me for having that restraining order which the (world-wise) judge had upped to No Contact. The church told me they knew how to handle this, and my going to the women’s shelter totally messed things up. The women’s shelter advice was “confusing” me. The shelter was (whispered tone) *secular*. The order hindered their plans to “put us back together.” They tried talking me into couples counseling SO many times. When they finally tried confronting him, he left the church. But even after he left, they kept on me, shaming me for the restraining order. Eventually they formally church disciplined me, cutting me out of all service in the church, although the informal shunning started the day I left with my kids. Almost a year later, they eventually lifted the formal discipline, but pastors, teachers, and others had started in on my kids, shaming them publicly, when shunning me wasn’t enough. We left.
Barbara – I asked my church for help years ago when his abuse first started and my daughter was a baby. The pastor and his wife told me that I was to stay with him for her sake. They also told me that since I had a baby, I could “die now.” That’s how little I mattered. I have refused to have anything to do with Christianity ever since. I want no part of it.
Extremely sad. I can only imagine the pain of being treated this way. The saddest part to me was Barbara saying she wants no part of Christianity after her experience.
Is this the best our churches can do? No. I’m praying that educating our church leaders about domestic violence can and will make a difference for current and future DV victims.
Have you had a similar experience with your church or are you a church leader that wants to support DV victims well? What can be done?
So glad you asked!
Ever since my unfortunate experience seeking help from my church, I’ve had a passion to be a part of educating church leaders. Over the last few months, I have created a resource to do just that. I’m calling it Domestic Violence Guide for Churches.
This resource includes a written guide and two PowerPoint videos. The first video describes the dynamics of abuse, and explains how abusers are adept at twisting scripture to keep their victims in bondage. It also talks about how and why the abuser often gains the support and sympathy of church leaders and others. Because most abusers are great manipulators, they are often able to make others believe they are the victim.
The second video prepares church leaders to deal with domestic violence in their churches. It begins by helping churches think through ways they can become a safe haven for abuse victims, so that victims will feel comfortable coming to them for help. This includes things like talking about DV from the pulpit, finding a DV advocate for the church, and having books and materials about DV around the church. It also describes what to do when a victim comes forward and how to deal with the abuser.
I pray every pastor in the country would take a look at this resource, and that it would begin to change the culture of our churches from hurting to helping DV victims. If you would like to get a preview of the PowerPoint video and written guide, please click here. Please pray about whether your current or former church could benefit from this resource.
In Isaiah 54:10 God says:
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
And in 1 Peter 5:1-4, the apostle Peter gives an exhortation to the elders of the church:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
One day we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Until that day, while on earth, I pray our pastors and elders will be an example of God’s compassion to their flocks.
I pray a blessing on each of you, and on your church leaders.