Domestic Violence in Our Churches

By Moreen Sharp

domestic_violence-3When you picture an abuser, what image pops into your head?

Faith Trust Institute tells us, “Batterers come from all class backgrounds and races. They may be highly-paid professionals, an upstanding member of the community, and a respected member of his congregation.”

When you think of a battered woman, what do you think of?

Battered women also “come from all walks of life. She might be the vice-president of your local bank, your child’s Sunday school teacher, or your dentist.”

The majority of us would be surprised at how widespread domestic violence is among people who attend our churches.

Let me tell you Sara’s story:

I grew up being very involved in the church, attended a Baptist private school, Bible college, and went into missions work. I met a man who shared my passion for the world and ministry. He was going to Bible College to be a pastor. Within six months after we married, he was dragging me around by my hair, pinning me down, and spitting all over my face while yelling, “RESPECT ME…SUBMIT.” I always made excuses for the bruises on my face, busted lip, or finger-print bruises on my arms. I knew it was getting bad, but I felt like it was my fault.

One day, the abuse got so bad he strangled me until I passed out. After that, I found a way to leave the relationship and came out about the abuse. My (now) ex played the role of the victim well. He was currently employed as a youth pastor at a church, and that church shunned me completely.

Believing I am lying is easier for most than accepting abuse is in their community.  I can reconcile the abuse of one man, but not the rejection of an entire community. I can honestly say that the reaction by the church hurt far more, and has been more traumatic, than the three-to-four physical beatings a week over a two-year period by my husband.

Her story is eerily similar to the story a friend shared with me.

This is not “somebody else’s problem.” We need to recognize this. Victims, survivors, perpetrators, family members are sitting in our churches every week.

What CAN we do?

  • Is there a woman who attends your church because it is a place of safety, of refuge, from an abusive spouse?  Keep your eyes and ears open. Listen. Be a friend.
  • If you are a woman who is being abused, please seek help. This is NOT your fault. No one deserves to be treated in such a way. Please know that.
  • Encourage your pastor to preach on this topic
  • Find out what community resources are available in your area and give the list to your pastor so s/he knows there is help if someone comes forward.
  • If someone talks to you about it, tell them you believe them and that it is not their fault. Direct them to talk to a domestic violence expert who is trained to help someone in their situation.

Faith communities matter in addressing domestic violence! We need to bring light on the subject. Let’s talk about it!

Moreen SharpMoreen Sharp is president of the North American Baptist Women’s Union and Vice-President of the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department. 

Using the Amazon links in this post helps support American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Thank you.

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