ChurchesHelp Begins with Understanding
Step 1: Understanding what a Destructive Relationship Looks Like
Helpers and Victims often ask themselves if what they are seeing is really abuse. Isn’t abuse a harsh word? The problem becomes that we are so fearful of over-labeling abuse that we fail to call out evil when it is happening, especially when the abuser is proficient in quoting scripture and putting on a good Christian show in front of Churches and Counselors. Scripture is also clear that God hates oppression. We reflect his heart when we offer support to those who have suffered mistreatment.
Let Called to Peace Ministries work with you and your team to equip you to provide a compassionate, Christ-centered response to those impacted by domestic abuse.
HOW WE HELP CHURCHES
We know that church leaders want the best for their congregations, working and praying for healthy spirituality, relationships, and families. Sometimes, however, leaders may not have the training or experience on how to helpfully assess and enter into domestic abuse situations, which could result in potentially harmful effects and even risk the safety of victims.
CTPM is available for you and your church as a ministry resource. We can enter into the domestic abuse situation with you and help equip you with our expertise and biblical training. Experts now suggest that a community coordinated response is the best way to achieve a successful outcome when it comes to domestic abuse and coercive control.
WHY WE HELP
In scripture, we find that these abusive traits are the exact opposite of God’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. We often ask those suffering in destructive relationships to read this passage, because it can also be a great way to help them determine whether or not their relationships are abusive. Scripture is also clear that God hates oppression. We reflect his heart when we offer support to those who have suffered mistreatment.
CARING FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Take her seriously even if you find it hard to believe. Statistics show that upwards of 95% of accusations are true.
Connect them with resources.
One of the best ways to help a victim is to help them get educated about the dynamics of abuse and the resources available to them. Local domestic violence programs can help them with information on navigating through protective orders, emergency custody, etc. They may also offer support groups, and information on housing and other practical needs. Called to Peace Ministries has advocates across the US, Canada and in the UK who can help your loved one. In addition, we offer support groups based on our scripture-based curriculum found in the Called to Peace book and Workbook. We would be happy to help you establish a group in your city. For more information on our groups or starting your own, click here.
If they come to you in confidence, do not immediately turn around and confront their abusers. This can endanger them further!
Going to court and facing an abuser can be terrifying, especially when going alone. Having someone to go along can provide an extra measure of security.
If you react strongly to what your friend is telling you, she/he might shut down and refuse to share any more information with you. Many victims in an intimate relationship want to save their relationships, and if you simply tell them to leave without trying to honor that desire, they will not trust you with more information. Tell them their chances of saving the relationship will be better if they separate temporarily, but always let them make their own decisions, even when you do not agree with them.
If you can offer lodging, transportation and other basic necessities, this is enormously helpful. Many victims return to dangerous situations, because they lack the resources to leave. Domestic violence shelters usually limit their stays to 30-60 days, which isn’t enough time for most people to get on their feet. In addition, shelter living can be stressful, and not the best environments for children.
Encourage them to make a safety plan (advocates can help with this). The following website offers helpful information www.thehotline.org.
Let them know that God does not expect us to submit to mistreatment. That only enables the abuser’s sin. Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage can be helpful in helping your loved one understand the importance of safely resisting sin.
REASONS VICTIMS MAY RESIST YOUR ATTEMPTS TO HELP
They may not consider their relationships abusive.
The vast majority of victims we have seen at CTPM did not consider their relationships abusive until things became unbearable, or someone else suggested it might be. Often, domestic violence does not involve the use of physical force, and victims who have not been beaten do not consider the intimidation and threats they live with abusive. This is why education is so important! See the Power and Control Wheel (add link). This tool, based on observation and research, often helps them see the patterns associated with domestic violence.
They do not want to leave their relationships.
While it’s always best to encourage victims to get safe, many simply won’t leave. If they are dedicated Believers, they may be confused about the best way to honor God in their marriages, and may think he requires them to stay. They also hold out hope that their partners will change. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen without some consequences. Always respect their decision to stay, and encourage them to seek godly counsel from a faith-based counselor who specializes in domestic violence. At CTPM, we do believe that abusers can change, but not without very specific intervention. Regular counseling is not effective, and marital counseling will usually do more harm than good. Keep in mind that statistics are not favorable for abusers changing, so make your friend’s wellbeing and healing your top priority.
They do not believe they can survive if they do leave.
Many victims of DV face an astounding lack of resources, because their abusers have controlled them financially and isolated them from their support systems. In addition, the legal system, churches, and counselors often lack the training to respond properly. This lack of knowledge can inadvertently provide more support for the abuser than the victim. Those who focus on saving marriages before saving lives can aggravate the problem and further endanger victims. Encourage your loved one to connect to counselors, pastors and attorneys who have a good working knowledge of domestic abuse.
Remember they could very likely face their abusers’ wrath for telling you. If you react strongly, they may hesitate to give you any more information. It takes time for thinking patterns to change, so don’t pressure them in any way! The pressure they receive from their abusers will almost always have more influence with them. It’s best to help empower them to begin making their own decisions.
They are afraid, and believe the abuse will get worse if they leave.
Seventy-five percent of all domestic violence homicides occur after the victim has separated from the abuser. They may also fear having to leave their children with their abusers. In many cases, the children are threatened or used as pawns. This is why safety planning is so important. Never underestimate the potential for worsening violence. Even when there has been no physical violence, situations can turn deadly after a separation. If the abuser has used threats and intimidation in the past, studies show that can be a good indicator that physical harm could be imminent. Many victims stay with their abusers, because they know this instinctively. Studies also show that DV is progressive in nature and it becomes more severe over time. So either way, your friend will be in danger. However, if she gets the right help, leaving is usually the best option.
They are experiencing trauma bounding.
They are feeling empathy towards their abusers. This psychological condition occurs when a victim of abuse identifies and attaches, or bonds, positively with their abuser. This was originally observed when hostages who were kidnapped not only bonded with their kidnappers, but also fell in love with them.
CTPM Events for Churches & Counselors
We offer quarterly community-wide workshops on domestic abuse and biennial conferences in the Raleigh, NC area, but we are also willing to speak to your church or small group. We host support groups for survivors of domestic abuse year round in multiple locations and online. Every other year we have an annual healing retreat for survivors. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we’ll have opportunities for you to interact with us all month.