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Counselors & People Helpers

Help begins with understanding

For 24-hour help contact National Domestic Abuse Hotline

Understanding what a destructive relationship looks like

Are you providing marriage counseling or mentoring to a couple, but feel confused by how it’s going? Do you know what red flags to look for and how to counsel a marriage devastated by abuse? How do you tell when a relationship crosses the line to abuse? Do you recognize an abusive situation and want to know the next steps?

How we help counselors and people helpers

We have several training videos that may help. In addition, we provide advocacy services to help you and your client find the best and safest path forward. Many counselors and people helpers choose to take our one-year training program to learn all they can about ways to help their clients. We have special breakout sessions at our annual retreats to help sharpen your skills in dealing with complex abuse-related issues. You can access prior retreats and conferences here.

Why we help

Using power and control to diminish others and to promote selfish interests stands in direct opposition to God’s heart for the weak, needy, and oppressed. Scripture uses the term oppression to describe such behavior and God clearly hates it (Is. 1:17, Ps. 147:7-9 Ex. 22:7). He commanded his people not to “lord it over” others (Mt. 20:25-28,1 Pet. 5:3). The Bible is filled with passages on God’s heart for the oppressed. In the New Testament, the religious leaders who opposed Jesus and the disciples provide us with clear examples of the abusive mindset—prideful, entitled, self-righteous, and self-promoting. Their agenda was to have more power than Jesus, and they stopped at nothing to get it. The same is true of abusive people. Therefore, we should never underestimate the potential for danger, even if the control has not yet escalated to physical injury. We should also understand the multiple impacts of all forms of abuse.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 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 their relationships are abusive. If you find yourself confused about what is happening in your relationship, you can take our quiz to learn more of the warning signs of abuse. Remember that God’s heart is for you, and he is calling you to peace (Ps. 56:9, 1 Cor. 7:15).

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalms 82: 3-4 ESV (DONE)

Caring for victims of domestic abuse

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Believe her.

Take her seriously even if you find it hard to believe. Statistics show that upwards of 95% of accusations are true.

Connect her 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 which use the 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.

Do not betray her confidence.

If she comes to you in confidence, do not immediately turn around and confront her abusers. This can endanger her further!

Accompany her to court.

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.

Encourage her to find hope in God.

Let her know that God hates violence, but that he cherishes her. There are many helpful resources on our blog and on our YouTube channel that can help.

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Listen and don’t try to take charge.

If you react strongly to what your friend is telling you, she 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 her to leave without trying to honor that desire, she will not trust you with more information. Tell her their chances of saving the relationship will be better if she separates temporarily, but always let her make her own decisions, even when you do not agree with her.

Provide practical support.

If you can offer lodging, transportation, and other 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 environment for children.

Encourage safety.

Encourage her to make a safety plan (advocates can help with this). The following website offers helpful information

Encourage her to set healthy boundaries.

Let her 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

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She may not consider her relationship 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 . This tool, based on observation and research, often helps them see the patterns associated with domestic violence.

She doesn't want to leave her relationship

While it’s always best to encourage victims to get safe, many simply won’t leave. If shi is a dedicated Believer, she may be confused about the best way to honor God in her marriages and may think he requires her to stay. She also may hold out hope that her partner will change. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually happen without some consequences. Always respect her decision to stay, and encourage her 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 to change, so make your friend’s well-being and healing your top priority.

She doesn't believe she can survive if she does 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.

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Victims are often conditioned to cover up and hide the abuse.

Remember she could very likely face her abusers’ wrath for telling you. If you react strongly, she may hesitate to give you any more information. It takes time for thinking patterns to change, so don’t pressure her in any way! The pressure she receives from her abusers will almost always have more influence with her. It’s best to help empower her to begin making her own decisions.

She is afraid, and believes the abuse will get worse if she leaves.

Seventy-five percent of all domestic violence homicides occur after the victim has separated from the abuser. She may also fear having to leave her children with her abuser. In many cases, the children are threatened or used as pawns. Therefore, 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, she is more likely to come through safely.

She still loves him

Victims of abuse usually still care deeply for their partners, and often have come to believe lies about why their partners are oppressing them. In fact, many feel empathy towards their oppressors, and believe that they can’t help themselves when they lash out. Rather than face the truth that their partners are choosing to oppress them, they make excuses for their behaviors.