by Ruth Lindsay

Introduction

“I heard a loud sound coming from the spare room and sighed. Something heavy had been thrown against the wall of the room, followed by a muffled curse.

While the sudden mood changes of my husband Donny were nothing new, I had no idea what was wrong. I refused to go in there, and my mind frantically raced trying to figure what to do next.

“Lord…” I prayed, and got no further. God didn’t seem to care about me or my angry husband.

I realised that I couldn’t get to my toddler without walking past the spare room where my husband was. Footsteps headed in my direction, and as I leaned against the washing machine, I rested my hand protectively and lovingly on my pregnant belly.

While I was only three months along, I looked like I was about five months, and I felt sick, bloated and exhausted. “It’s ok, little one… it’s ok,” I whispered.

My babies always went quiet when the abuse was bad.

Donny rounded the corner. “Look at this!” he yelled, waving a mouldy sandwich container towards me.

“You never clean this house! What do you do all day – sit on your #@!? backside, while I work? You’re #@!? lazy and useless.”

Donny had a temporary job at the moment and was away for two weeks at a time, returning home on the weekend and then gone again. He was packing to leave that afternoon, while I folded his clothes that I’d brought in from outside.

Our spare room was full of stuff that I wasn’t allowed to touch, because he was the only one allowed to pack and unpack in there.

Now this mouldy container was my fault. It seemed like I’d heard that line a million times before. It was always my fault… always.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

It was better to submit and admit to any wrong-doing then to try and defend myself. I dropped my head and looked at the ground.

He spun on his heel and returned to his packing, and before long I heard more objects strike the walls. It sounded like he was in a full-blown rage. 

I headed for the kitchen with a sigh. Hearing the TV in the lounge room, I realised my 13-month-old son was watching his favourite show, I hoped that he would not hear what was going on with his father.

A couple of hours to get through and I reminded myself that I just had to hang on. I didn’t need another black eye, or broken nose, or burst eardrum… I didn’t need any more bruises, or complications to this pregnancy.

As I walked past the spare room he yelled at me. “Look at this pigsty!”

I looked into the room where things had been strewn everywhere in his rage.

My back stiffened. “It’s not my stuff,” I said quietly.

I stood in the doorway, not saying any more. My legs ached but I knew better then to sit down while he was working. He’d likely pull the chair out from under me, if I did that.

He strode purposefully towards me, waving his arms around and yelling.

“How about something to eat?” I asked, trying to placate him as I quickly headed into the kitchen.

He followed.

In the middle of the room as I turned around, he came up close behind me. His eyes were sharp and furious as he leaned in towards me, so close that I could smell coffee on his breath. He was still yelling.

As I backed up, he swiftly brought his hand up as if he was about to strike me.

“Oh no, not my face!” I thought with alarm.

His hand swung towards the side of my head and stopped at the last moment. Instead of hitting me, he firmly flicked his hand back and forth, the wind fanning my face and the side of his hand deliberately hitting the end of my nose.

Closing my eyes, l bowed my head slightly.

Forcefully he thrust his body forward so that his stomach hit my pregnant belly. He was frightening me. I kept my hands by my side, my eyes to the ground and backed away.

He did it again. Stepping backwards, I soon found my back pressed against the kitchen bench.

I had run out of room with nowhere to escape and wondered what was going to happen next, as he resumed his shouting.

Over his yelling I heard a noise, like a high pitched scream, and glancing over his shoulder, I saw our young son standing at the entrance of the kitchen. His little face was screwed up in fear. He stood with his mouth open, but no further sound came out.

The instant that Donny was distracted by our son’s scream, I took the opportunity to duck past him.

Grabbing my son, I sped to my room, and quickly locked the door. Leaning against it, I listened, trying to determine what kind of response there might be from my husband. I could hear his heavy breathing just outside, but he didn’t touch the door handle.

I wondered what I might do if he tried to come in.

After waiting a few minutes, I lay down on the bed and soothed my son to sleep.

As I drifted off to sleep, I thought again about how I hated my ‘Christian’ life, and that I was slowly coming to hate my ‘Christian’ husband.

Our life was a lie. Upfront it appeared loving, busy and purposeful, but behind the doors of our house hid another dimension… another world.

Everyone thought Donny was the most wonderful man. He came across as caring, loving, godly, a little intense, but wise.

In reality, he was spiteful, cruel, intimidating, angry and controlling. I felt helpless, weak, stupid and scared.

I utterly believed that I’d failed miserably at life, in my marriage, and as a mother. I hated who I had become – weak, pitiful and stupid. I was tired, alone and emotional and I didn’t know what to do next.

I felt far from the God I professed to worship and love.

My world was grey and black, with two tiny dots of sunshine – my son and my soon-to-be-born son. As I whispered their names, a sob was wrenched from me.

I fell asleep crying and troubled, but even there, Donny invaded my dreams in yet another nightmare. I woke crying aloud in the now quiet house. Scared that Donny might have heard me, I covered my mouth and listened. My heart pounded while I waited, but silence remained.

Slowly I unlocked and opened the door and saw that his bags were missing from the spare room. He was gone.

There was a note which read, “I will not be back next fortnight. Maybe I will find someone else to live with.”

I sat down, a mixture of intense emotions stirred within me. Fear, confusion, anger and despair filled my mind. I was a prisoner in a nightmare that was alive and walking. I couldn’t keep going on like this. I realised that my babies would suffer.

There was a surge of strength in me as I recognised that I was their protector and that was one thing I could do for them.

While my son slept, I uttered the first honest prayer I’d said in months, “God help me and guide me, I don’t know what to do. I commit my life fully into your hands.”

After that, I picked up the phone and shakily phoned the police.”

(Excerpt from “Behind Closed Doors.¹”)

Domestic Violence and the Christian home

Q. Is it possible for there to be domestic violence within a Christian marriage?

A. Sadly, the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’

Q. Surely within the Christian church then, these abusive marriages must be rare?

Sadly, the answer here is a resounding ‘NO!’

These are often quite startling revelations to many Christians and sometimes even church leaders. The assumption is that if both of the partners in the marriage are Christians, then God will work on problems and behaviours that are unhealthy in the relationship.

For genuine Christians who are growing in Christ and growing day by day and year by year, a healthy, loving, growing marriage is definitely possible because each is willing to change and grow so that the marriage will flourish, a teamwork of mutual love and care.

I have personally witnessed healthy Christian marriages including my own marriage to my second husband Kim, and yet I was also a personal witness in my first marriage, to a painfully, destructive relationship that was supposed to be between two loving Christians.

I lived in a virtual hell, being controlled and in fear for fourteen years and when I needed help, it was difficult to find it in the church. Yet, I did not realise how bad the state of that marriage was, until I left and was shown what a true, strong and healthy marriage could be.

This article was not written as a means of criticising the church, but in an endeavour to make people aware that domestic violence is far more common than we realise within many Christian marriages. I am also hoping that the information I provide here will bring insight both to church leaders and Christian adults about domestic violence, as well as suggestions about how the Church can truly help its victims.

Due to the lack of reliable data on domestic violence against men in marriages, I am at this time focusing on female victims of domestic violence within intimate Christian relationships or Christian marriages in Australia. Should further information become available, a more complete article could be put together.

My Personal Journey

In an environment that included the change from victim to victor in the messy and secret world of domestic violence, it has been a part of my personal journey to explore the love, healing and hope that God provides.

My circumstances enabled me to identify the beliefs, struggles and mistakes that I personally witnessed and encountered within the church as they attempted to deal with my experience of domestic violence and abuse.

Our Saviour quoted the words of Isaiah in Luke chapter four, in which we are reminded that He was sent for the broken-hearted and the captive:

 “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” Isaiah 61:1 [NIV]

I had read this scripture many times and never understood that this scripture was for someone like me. It helped me comprehend that in Christ was freedom, release and healing, and this extended to all areas of my life, including my messy, personal world. Before I could accept this, I first had to come to the realisation that I was broken-hearted, and captive to an incorrect belief system, as well as a prisoner of domestic violence.

During this article it is necessary for me to use the terms ‘abuser’ or ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim.’ While the church prefers to use less abrasive words to describe someone caught in this sin and those affected by that sin, I would suggest that it’s not just a matter of dealing with a sin, but is a twisted belief system that excuses one person’s desire to hurt another person who is vulnerable… a person who is broken-hearted, captive and a prisoner.

 By writing this way, my hope is to encourage people to honestly consider both about how we in the church view abusers and victims, and whether our view is Biblical or simply based on what we have learned and accepted from the limited knowledge gained from our own narrow upbringing.

Breaking the Silence

For many families who have domestic violence hidden within the foundations of their family structure, it is ultimately only Christ who can change and heal. Healing cannot take place though, until the roots of abuse are exposed and removed, and the silence and shame revealed.

“To remain silent about abuse, violence, and suffering does not help any community.  For me personally, it was hard to break that silence. It was acceptable to share my pain with my family doctor and occasionally with an unfamiliar doctor at a hospital where I went for treatment of my injuries, but to come to any point where I would start to risk seeking the help that I needed, required a bravery that I didn’t possess at the time.  What I held within me was simply too hard to speak about.

To the outside world, I appeared to have the perfect husband, and a great marriage, so when I finally did speak, I had to share more than just the abuse; it was about breaking that perfect image and the lies that ran secretly and deeply underneath it all.

For many Christian women, coming up through the shame and pain that covers the veil of silence can be likened to breaking thick ice on the edge of a frozen pond in the middle of winter – from underneath it. To be able to break through and speak requires more than she can do herself.

Often those that should help her, instead become her strongest critics and adversaries. Those that hold the ability to bring about a miracle of a changed life in her abusive husband, often become confused by our God-given scriptures which are supposed to produce good fruit and real permanent change in a hardened heart.2

“Those that hold the greatest ability to bring about … a changed life in her abusive husband, often become confused by our God-given scriptures.”

What is Domestic Violence?

I’ve heard people talking about abuse and specifically about domestic violence, and I think that it should be made clear that domestic violence is not entirely about the physical violence side of it. The Centre for Relationship Abuse Awareness states:

“An important piece in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence is the definition of abuse. Abuse is defined as the systematic pattern of behaviours in a relationship that are used to gain and/or maintain power and control over another. When one defines domestic violence in terms of physical abuse only they do not fully understand the dynamics that keep these relationships together3.”

 Most people are shocked by the discovery that physical violence can be part of a Christian marriage.

While understanding that physical violence is confronting, this is not the only type of abuse. What many people don’t understand is that the physical violence will often be the culmination of many days or months of all other types of abuse which eventually culminates in physical violence.

Sometimes the only type of physical abuse is that of a push or a shove, yet the verbal and psychological abuse can go on relentlessly every day.

Statistics suggest that one in four women will experience emotional abuse, while one in six will be the victim of physical violence.

Domestic violence is not just one hit, one punch or one argument, it is a systematic, long-term pattern that includes:

  • creating ongoing fear in the victim;

  • regular intimidation of the victim;

  • ongoing controlling behaviours; and

  • may also include physical violence;

Every abuse pattern starts somewhere, and a single incident still requires serious attention, because wherever a single incident arises, there has to be a cause from which further incidences may possibly arise. Yet from the first incidence, there is another part of domestic violence that is rarely addressed within Christian circles:

– isolation –

Abusers isolate their victims, particularly from those that the victim may seek to obtain help. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a victim to come forward and speak about what is going on within the relationship. Isolation allows the abusive behaviours and patterns of abuse to be hidden and to continue within the home.

Types of Abuse

I am aware that on most websites, these types of abuse are usually included under the category of ‘Domestic Violence,’ but I disagree with this: abuse is abuse and violence is violence. While they can go together, they are very different types of abuse. Violence is only one part of it. When most people speak of abuse within intimate relationships, they often categorise all abusive behaviour as ‘domestic violence.’

While it is the physical violence that gets most attention, all types of abuse are unacceptable. Some are criminal offences and include marital rape and physical abuse. Within those two types of abuse, we need to understand that there are likely other forms of abuse occurring that are not so evident, but can often be more harmful in the long-term.

– Verbal abuse

This includes using words to diminish the self-worth of another and to cause them to doubt who they are as an individual. Additionally, it can include using words which cause a victim to feel intimidated.

Examples of this may include screaming, shouting, put-downs, name-calling, swearing, and using sarcasm or ridiculing the partner for their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Verbal abuse can sometimes be the beginning of the next stage of abuse which is the physical violence.

– Emotional abuse

This includes any type of behaviour which deliberately undermines the victim’s confidence as a person, and often leads the victim to the belief that they are stupid, weak, lazy, and/or useless. There may be behaviours that cause the person to believe that they are a ‘bad parent’ or even to believe they’re going crazy or insane.

Emotional abuse may also include threats of suicide; and/or warnings that they will harm others around them including children. This abuse can cause the victim to believe that it was their fault.

The perpetrator may also use silence and withdrawal as a means of abuse and control.

– Physical abuse

Behaviour may include pushing, shoving, hitting, slapping, attempted strangulation, hair-pulling, punching etc. and may or may not involve the use of weapons. This also includes the throwing of items at the victim, such food or drink.

Not all physical violence ends in bruising or wounds, eg. food rubbed deliberately in the victim’s face to cause humiliation. This type of abuse can cause physical discomfort, bruising, wounds, permanent injury or even death.

– Social abuse

This involves isolating the victim from people who are important to them such as family and friends and includes preventing the victim from contacting them.

This could also involve verbal or physical abuse in public or in front of others so that the person feels humiliated and withdraws from others out of embarrassment and shame.

It could involve continually criticising or mocking the victim’s friends and family, often so insidiously that the victim isn’t aware that is occurring. As a result, the victim is slowly disconnected from those that could most help them.

– Financial abuse

The perpetrator often gains full control of the finances, including spending and decisions about money. This causes the victim to be financially dependent upon their abusive partner. Further abuse results from denying them access to money, including any of their own, and forces the victim (and children) to live with limited funds. The abuser may demand that the victim accounts for every cent that is expended.

This type of abuse can often be a major contributing factor for victims, particularly women, who believe that they’re trapped in the relationship. When they have no money, there is no way they can leave if they don’t have the financial resources to do so, particularly if they have been isolated from others, and want to take the children with them.

– Sexual abuse

This may include forced sexual contact, rape, and demanding that the victim perform sexual acts that cause pain or humiliation. It may also include forcing them to view pornography and belittling them for not appearing, and/or behaving as the sexual partner the abuser demands of them.

– Spiritual abuse

Ridiculing or putting down the victim’s beliefs are one way that the perpetrator can abuse them. Male abusers may use scripture to remind his wife that she is ‘just a woman’ or limiting what her role is as a wife.

Abusers will lie to Christian leaders so that they might help the perpetrator to control their victim. It can also include forcing the victim to attend a church that encourages controlling behaviours.

– Separation violence

After the relationship has ended, the abuse can continue.  The time of separation or shortly afterwards can often be a very dangerous time for the victim. The perpetrator may perceive a loss of control over them and become unpredictable. During this period, violence may escalate to the point where the victim feels more unsafe than when they were in the relationship and this may explain why some victims return to their abuser.

After the breakup, the perpetrator may go to great lengths to keep up the ‘good guy façade, to encourage others in their church, friends, or family to believe that he is ‘really a good guy’ which encourages others around him to let down their guard. At that point, the abuser can step up their campaign on ‘who their ex-partner really is’ and ‘what they’re like in reality’ causing those who know the victim to begin to doubt her claims of abuse.

It is this subtle emotional abuse that will cause others to wonder if the victim is just ‘being silly’ or over-reacting and may encourage the victim to try to sort things out by going back to the relationship. This causes not only a ‘false reconciliation’ but may also put the victim’s life (and that of any children), in very real danger.

It’s important to understand that at this point, without intervention and counselling, reconciliation is not possible. Without the abuser having a complete change in their thinking and behaviour though deep counselling, including recognising and understanding that their own behaviour is the problem, it will never be possible to have a healthy, long-term reconciliation

– Stalking

Sometimes the victim is stalked by the perpetrator after they separate. A behaviour is considered stalking when the same type of behaviour occurs on more than one occasion.

Stalking includes being in places the victim is known to normally frequent such as the workplace, or a particular shopping centre.

It may include watching the victim, following them, making persistent phone calls and sending unwanted letters, cards and gifts, even though the victim may have made it abundantly clear that the relationship has ended.

In a Christian marriage, the abuser may claim that they weren’t stalking the victim but were simply ‘sitting outside their house praying for them and their marriage.’ Pastors and church leaders need to be reminded that stalking is a criminal offence no matter what type of ‘Christian phrasing’ the abuser uses to excuse the behaviour. They also need to realise that abusers will use common Christian words and phrases to sound pious or make it seem like they are the victims.

– Domestic homicide

The victim and/or children may be killed by the abuser as a result of domestic violence. This can happen before the victim leaves the family home or after they attempt to separate. It may also happen during the period after the relationship is dissolved.

The most dangerous time is after the relationship has ended and the controller recognises that they have lost their power. Filled with rage, they are more likely to act irrationally and aggressively.

Statistics on this Issue Within the Church

It is concerning that even in these modern times, the personal beliefs of those in church leadership could be hindering victims from coming for-ward and seeking help. Many churches remain unaware and uninformed about the issue of domestic violence, as they don’t see it as a ‘church’ problem. Some leaders may even turn a blind eye to those seriously in need of help.

While the Christian home and the church should be free from these types of behaviours, sadly they are not.

The statistics are not good. In the general population, figures indicate that on average, one in four women are abused by their intimate partner such as a boyfriend, partner or husband.4

In gathering evidence, it was difficult to find detailed statistical evidence on the seriousness of the issue, because this question has never been asked: how many Christian women are in or have been in abusive or domestic violence situations?

The statistics don’t delineate those in relationships within the major group which it clumps together as those between 15 and 65 years of age. Further the figures don’t include those who remained in an abusive marriage until death, nor those who didn’t recognise that they were in abusive relationships. Additionally, the data did not differentiate between those who held a religious belief and those who did not.

While I would like to provide clear data on the number of Christian women in abusive situations. I cannot provide accurate figures, but for necessity sake it is imperative that I give you something on which to ponder.

In June 2017 it was estimated that the population of Australia was 24,487,000 people, of which 12,150,000 were male and 12,337,000 were female.5

For simplicity’s sake I will remove a number of factors, including children under 14 years old, people over 65 and half of those counted in the 15 to 24 years bracket. This leaves 59.86% of the population, which makes it approximately 7,384,900 women between the ages of 19 and 65 years.

The statistics suggest that there are about 52% of people that identify as having a Christian faith, which brings the number of Christian women to 3,840,000. Of those it is said that 1 in 4 women are living in or have experienced abuse. This brings the figure to 960,000 Christian women that either have been in or are in domestic violence situations.

Even if we want to be very conservative about this, and divide that by a further 50% to allow for those that assume this is more a ‘worldly problem’ rather than a ‘Christian problem’ and also to include only Christian women who actually come to church or are regular attendees, and we’re still talking about 480,000 Christian women in Australia who have been in or are in abusive relationships.

Consider that based on those figures, it is most likely that on any Sunday, there are women in your church who need help and assistance. It would be reasonable to expect that in a church of one hundred people, you would find at least three women who are experiencing domestic violence and/or abuse, and up to another three that have (in a previous relationship) experienced domestic abuse and violence, and this is a conservative number.

It is my personal opinion that domestic violence and abuse is just as prevalent in the church as it is outside it. From what I have personally seen and experienced, it is also my opinion that the one in four women is still a valid statistic within the Christian community as it is outside of it.

“…the personal beliefs of those in church leadership could be hindering victims from coming forward and seeking help.”

Is it Just a ‘World Problem?’

In talking with pastors and Christian people, I’ve found that most Christians feel that domestic violence is more a ‘world problem’ and don’t believe it’s an issue for the Christian church. However, since what Christian’s would see as ‘worldly issues’ (eg. pornography, rape, paedophilia, anger issues, gambling, excessive drunkenness, drugs, divorce, abortion, homosexuality and couples living together before they are married) are now currently issues that churches deal with, it is not hard to surmise that domestic violence and abuse are also an present issue of the modern day church.

Recent events have brought the testimony of some Christian women to the forefront of the media’s attention. An article written in 2017 by Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson, confront Christendom and the Australian public with the following quote.

“As theology professor Steven Tracy wrote in 2008: ‘It is widely accepted by abuse experts (and validated by numerous studies) that evangelical men who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives.’“5,7

These words should encourage some inward reflection and more open transparency in how domestic violence and abuse is dealt with in the church. Because domestic violence veils itself in silence, the secrecy of lives lived in violence and abuse often find a greater secrecy in the walls of the church. The abuser has more to lose if his abuse is found out, including the status of being a ‘good Christian man.’

Silence is one of the greatest allies to violence and abuse continuing and remaining hidden behind the four walls of the house and the church.

This is not only a ‘church problem’ as recognised by a recent article into one journalist’s story on the silence within the media, and her own experience of the silence within the non-religious media. Heidi Davoren wrote:

“As a young journalist, the lack of interest and coverage given to domestic violence created the impression that this topic was not relevant to our readers – domestic disputes were a minor inconvenience that took up valuable airplay on the police scanner when we could be chasing real stories like car crashes and drug busts.

I did not question the authority that enforced this media silence. So too was the case for suicides – we did not report them. They were taboo. These were the rules and I followed them. But as with most things, it seemed to me there were too many grey areas that called into question the suitability of such a blanket ban.”5

The question then needs to be asked: is it that domestic violence and abuse is considered less important than many others issues that plague a nation, a town, a community… and perhaps a church?

7. The quote by theology professor Steven Tracy, was written in 2008 before it was understood about the level of domestic violence hidden in marriages where Islam is the religion of the home. “Unfortunately for women, much of the corrosion in Islam’s message pertained to issues related to women. Why? Historically women have been easy targets; it was an easy way for the powerful to ensure they maintained control over at least one segment of society. The subjugation of women is important on a number of societal levels for the power elite. Once women are excluded from the potential power base on a societal level, the next logical step is to exclude them from decision making or power at the domestic level.”

How do Pastors Deal with Domestic Violence?

One pastor I spoke to, waved his hand at me and said, “Well, we don’t have problems like that.”

His naivety shocked me, as well as his refusal to seriously consider the problem.

I have heard many pastors protest that domestic violence would not be tolerated in the church, and they would speak out against such evils. Instead, what I witnessed when this situation arose, was both their inability to deal with the problem and their desire to silence and close down the victim in an attempt not to embarrass the perpetrator, and to eliminate the possible effect on unity within their church.

Not only is the issue of domestic violence often not recognised by the church, but when revealed or exposed within its walls, it is my experience that it is often dealt with incorrectly, even to the harm and detriment of the victim.

Sadly, from the pastors and church leaders I have spoken to, many feel unqualified and ill-equipped to deal with this type of problem.

Breaking the law, un-Christlike behaviour and sin, are areas that the church has often struggled to deal with effectively. Any of these areas may be seen as a personal failure of the local church establishment or the pastor or both.

Rather than seeing it as a societal sickness and human disease, some leaders may see it as a problem with ‘their club,’ they take such revelations as being a problem with their church and they take it personally. This may result in the problems being swept under the carpet until those in the abusive situations, simply stop seeking help from their leaders, submit to the abuse and/or become silent.

Confrontation, truth, accountability and change are the only ways to deal with any form of abuse. Some church leaders try to ignore the situation or suggest to the victim that things will get better if they pray, or behave more appropriately in a way that the abuser will feel placated.

It then becomes less about the abuse, the victim and the perpetrator, and more about maintaining the status quo.

From the testimonies of women that I have spoken to, some churches are resorting to ostracising the victim, either because they don’t know how to deal with the issue, or because it is easier to ostracise the victim then to directly deal with the perpetrator.

In the previous quote by Julia Baird with Hayley Gleeson they also quote the CEO of Safe Steps Family Violence Centre, Annette Gillespie:

“…in 20 years of working with victims of domestic violence, she found it was “extremely common” that women are “encouraged by the church to stay in an abusive relationship.”

“I know that for many women the experience of violence was worsened by the lack of support people turned to in the church,” she said. “Often people say it is the guilt of going against the church teaching that leads them to stay in relationships well beyond a time they should leave because they are trying to please the church as well as please their partners … they often feel they will have to choose between leaving religion or violence. So when they leave a relationship, they leave a church.””5

The article then goes on to say…

“Women in faith communities where divorce is shunned, and shameful, often feel trapped in abusive marriages.”5

Unfortunately, it is my experience that few pastors and church leaders are equipped to deal with domestic violence within a Christian marriage, and as a result, few victims receive the help they so desperately need.

If it was difficult for the victim to speak out about the abuse the first time to those they trusted the most, imagine how much more difficult it will be for them the next time they seek help. So, the abuse continues while the victim feels imprisoned in a living hell, with no way out. This may also explain why some people return to an abusive partner.

Is the Church Changing?

In July 2017 an ABC news article “Australian church leaders call for urgent response to domestic violence,” stated:

“An ABC News investigation into religion and domestic violence involving dozens of interviews with survivors, counsellors, priests, psychologists and researchers from a range of Christian denominations has found the Church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence but is, in some cases, ignoring it or allowing it to continue.”7

It is clearly noted, at the end of this article that a number of churches were making moves toward the change necessary.

John C Maxwell said “We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are.”

For the church to be able to change its approach to domestic violence and abuse:

  • it needs to understand what domestic violence and abuse is

  • how it can hide under the veneer of certain Christian beliefs and family structures

  • have policies in place to deal with perpetrators and victims.

  • train their leaders and members to recognise and deal with domestic violence and abuse.

  • look at what areas of their church personal beliefs and structure that allow perpetrators to hide and the victim unable to come forward.

  • have an honest look at what the bible has to say about relationships, marriage and women.

I am a living testimony of church families and wise pastors who helped me change my situation and heal, who stood with me while I got back on my feet and who still stand with me today.

They understood and saw the dynamics and problems involved and worked to help me, while still reaching out to the angry man who needed help too.

While I saw church leaders make mistakes, I understand that rarely was it done with direct intent to hurt, but rather an inability to deal with a messy and awkward situation.

It was disconcerting to see that church leaders preferred to stick to what they knew and believed to be the problem, while still allowing the victim to remain in an abuse situation, or even turning the victims away.

My personal desire is that through speaking out, I can reach out and encourage others to change their lives, while sharing my own testimony of God’s help, protection, love and mercy.

The road from captivity to freedom is not easy, but it is always worth the journey… and every person, no matter where they are on the road, is valuable.

[End]

Part two of this article can be found on this link, where we cover topics such as:

  • How to avoid common mistakes;

  • Domestic violence is not a problem of submission nor one of obedience;

  • Abuse is about control, intimidation and fear;

  • It is not about problems with alcohol and drugs;

  • It is not because she’s crazy or hormonal;

  • Jezebel and spirits of darkness;

  • Laws need to be obeyed;

  • A Christian wife will also be concerned about her marriage vows;

  • Going back to a place of danger;

  • A safe place;

  • Leaders may also be abusers;

  • What about men that are being abused;

  • When it’s not the truth;

  • What about the abuser; and

  • What can we do?

Notes
  1. Ruth Lindsay, undated and unpublished, “Behind Closed Doors”
  2. No name, undated, The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness: Get Education: What is Relationship Abuse, accessed 14/01/18, available:   www.stop relationshipabuse.org/educated/what-is-relationship-abuse/
  3. No name, 28 August 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics: 3235.0 – Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2016, available: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@. nsf/mf/3235.0, accessed 14/01/18
  4. No name, 20 January 2018, Index Mundi: Australia Demographics Profile 2018, available:  www.indexmundi.com/austra lia/demographics_profile.html, accessed 14/01/18
  5. No name, 27 June 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics: 2016 Census data reveals “no religion” is rising fast, available: www. abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/mediareleasesbyReleaseDate/7E65A144540551D7CA258148000E2B85?OpenDocument, accessed 14/01/18
  6. Julia Baird with Hayley Gleeson, 10 Aug 2017, ‘Submit to your husbands’: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God,’ www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-18/domestic-violence-church-submit-to-husbands/8652028, accessed 14/01/18
  7. Heidi Davoren, The Drum, 8 May 2015, ABC News: Domestic violence and the media: maintaining the veil of silence and secrecy, available: www.abc.net.au/news/ 2015-05-08/davoren-maintaining-the-veil-of-silence-around-domestic-violence/ 6455060, accessed 16/01/18
  8. Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson, 27 July 2017, ABC News: Australian church leaders call for urgent response to domestic violence, available: www.abc.net.au/news/ 2017-07-22/church-leaders-demand-urgent-response-domestic-violence/8732100, accessed 24/01/18
  9. Summer Hathout, undated, Muslim Women’s League: Don’t Hold All Muslims Responsible for Men Who Misuse Quran, Beat Women, available: www.mwlusa.org/ topics/violence&harrassment/domesticviolence.htm, accessed 14/01/18

Biography

Ruth Lindsay is a wife, mother of two teenage sons, author, speaker, blogger, and bible study leader who enjoys reading, eating chocolate, and coffee with friends.

Ruth is founder of “Be Alive Ministries,” an outreach to women. Her first book “He Whispers Our Name,” is an outreach for women of all ages about God’s heart for people, and His desire to have a real and authentic life-changing relationship with Him. Her second book, “Behind Closed Doors” is still being written and is aimed at helping others become free from domestic violence and abuse.

The Be Alive Ministries Facebook page, enables her to reach others from her small country town in Queensland, while her website www.ruthlindsay.com.au and blog page www.ruthlindsay.com provides a base to be able to work from home to touch the lives of many.