The Church’s Response to Domestic Violence

Where were you when 911 happened? I recall working on a project and listening to the radio playing in the background. Suddenly all programs were interrupted with the announcement of an airplane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City. It was followed by another plane crashing into the other tower.

For the rest of the day, I sat memorized by the event being replayed over and over again. I was horrified as I watched people running out of fear as debris from the buildings filled the streets with a thick layer of gray matter. Many innocent lives were killed that day.

An eeriness encompassed me as I glanced out the window looking to the sky. I began to wonder if my area would be next for I live close to O’Hare Airport. There were no visible planes in the sky for days.

As I watched the news in the days that followed, everyone was in an uproar over the terrorists who had secretly invaded our country. People constantly talked about the injustice of it all.

Yet we are silent about the families who are experiencing terror every day as they are held captive by fear produced by the abuse they are experiencing. The destructiveness of their relationship is slowly killing the spirit within them. We call this domestic violence.

Statistics do not reflect those relationships where there is emotional abuse without the physical violence present. These victims of abuse are being oppressed by the terror within their home yet the church ignores the elephant in the room. We have tried to decorate it to the decor of the church hoping that its appearance will not be noticeable. I see the Lord raising up people to take a stand against the evil that is growing like cancer in our churches. Listen to what God has to say in His word.

“The Lord looked and was displeased to find that there was not justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his might power and justice.” Isaiah 59:15-16 NLT

Fifteen years ago when FOCUS Ministries was founded, the door to the church was closed, bolted, and chained shut. It has been only in the past few years that I have seen the bolts and chains fall off and the door to the church is opened a crack.

What were and still are the reasons for the lack of church response to domestic violence?

• Denial—Domestic violence does not happen in my church or Christian community. Denial also that the destructiveness of emotional and spiritual abuse is part of domestic violence and needed to be addressed. Consequently victims have not been believed or affirmed as they begin to tell the secret instead they are asked what they did to provoke the abuse.

• Divorce – Churches often do not want to become involved because they have the misconception that they are advocating divorce. The safety of women and children should be a higher priority. They fail to consider that their intervention could actually preserve a family.

• Family Business—Unspoken rule: what happens in the family stays in the family

• Fear of Risks—Domestic violence is very messy and can be dangerous especially when the church becomes the support and protection for the victim and the abuser is a church member.

• Lack of Domestic Violence Education—Some churches do not know what to do so they choose to ignore the problem.

• Lack of Knowing How to Respond to Domestic Violence and How to Counsel—There is no excuse for this. Think about this if you do not know the meaning of a passage of scripture, you research it until you understand. There are many local resources that are prepared to provide education on domestic violence and the correct way to respond. Besides ministering to women and families, FOCUS Ministries trains pastors, leaders, counselors, and churches about domestic violence.

• Not Wanting to Expose the Pastor as an Abuser—Believe it or not there are pastors who regularly abuse their family and preach from the pulpit the principles that are given in scripture about how to love each other.

I am praying that the church will get its head out of the sand and address this issue head on. We in FOCUS Ministries are committed to keeping domestic violence in the forefront. There is too much needless suffering going on!

Paula Silva © 2010 FOCUS Ministries, Inc.

Posted in Abusive Relationships, Domestic Violence, Insights, Spiritual Direction
10 comments on “The Church’s Response to Domestic Violence
  1. Nancy Nelson says:

    Praise God for you!!! Iam so glad to hear someone from the church taking a stand against domestic violence. I’ve been in a DV marriage for 12 years, 6 of which I’ve been a member of a Calvary Chapel. My pastor first treated it as a marriage problem and tried to help. I was recently desparate for help and reached out to my pastor and his family. This time they ignored my calls and pleas. I will be praying for your voice to be heard and your ministry to spread. May God richly bless your work!

  2. Nadine says:

    I thank God for you. Your article has given me strength and insight into my situation. I too have been living with DV from my husband who is a leader/elder/board member at our church. My pastors have essentially ignored my pleas for help and requests to do something else, along with their praying and understanding. As of this past week, they have taken me out my leadership roles and are expecting (without outright asking) that I leave the church, simply because I have spoken to two individuals about the DV (whom they did not approve of me speaking to). The church seems to feel that I should just “pray and wait for my husband to change”.

  3. Laurie Hagen McConkey says:

    Nancy & Nadine; I’d love to be your friends on facebook, it sure helps to have friends who understand. I’ve just recently made a few new friends who live nearby who are in the same boat. I’ve been so thankful for them since I too have been kicked out of my church for speaking up about my husband’s violence (he’s a pastor). The slander & terrorization I constantly endure from these church leaders is unbearable. They let my husband preach a sob story to the congregation of 1500 people, they are constantly threatening me to keep quiet, when I don’t, they do more harm to me, it just never stops. I really wish I’d never talked to the church leadership, wish I’d gotten into a woman’s domestic violence support group for help instead of the elders of my church. After being a pastor wife for so many years it’s painful to be nearly friendless because of all this, not to mention the mental, psychological, financial abuse, etc. I’d love to hear more about how you ladies are doing. It helps me to know others are making it. 🙂

  4. Nadine says:

    Hi Laurie,

    I hope things are improving for you. I’m not a big fan of facebook, but I wanted to encourage to hold onto Jer 29:11. It has really grounded me through all of this. I hope you were able to find a support group or a counsellor. Talking to supportive people and praying are the only ways to work through something like this. I will keep you in my prayers. Stay positive, dream new dreams, hope and strive towards the future you always wanted. God bless.

  5. Tracie says:

    I can not believe what i just read! I also thank GOD for Paula Silva and Life Focus Ministries for stepping up to the plate. My husband and I run a marriage group at our church and I am in a family violence class at school and the class had to do a piece on DV and my heart was prompted to present mine on DV within the church. In doing my research I have come across this website and I thank God so for it. I will use what I have learned here to help spread the word about DV within the church and the lack of attention it gets. I pray that you women continue on in your walk with God and understand God is still in control and begin to reach out to other women and NOT BE AFRAID ANY MORE TO SPEAK UP! I have endured DV within my life time and now I am able to help other women too! PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!!!

  6. Trudy Johnson says:

    I think the only way that the Christian community will POSSIBLY take this seriously if it is exposed to the public and through the courts. I have had my ex-husband in court and he is losing the case big time. It is of NO help to him that his church is backing him up. The courts are paying close attention to this and I have had to go through alot of name calling and verbal abuse from the church but since I have been away from the organization for such a long time I have been able to find solid support OUTSIDE> Where do these people get off thinking that torture is ok? THAT is what domestic violence is AND they have tried to prove that it was a “mutual” beating up thing (IT WASNT!!!!). These people are treading on thin ice spiritually; this is NOT a joke!

  7. memphis says:

    Yes it is a crime to be ignorant and the people in churches with authority should be hel accountable for perpetuating vioence against women and children. Abusers are generally habitual liers and yes they do whatever it takes to blameshift their actions onto their victoms. I havelost track of how many pastors hae turned their back on my children and i because they felt sorry for my husband because i would not forgive him over and over again. Every time we tried toattend a different church my spouse would behind the scenes join the mens group or talk with the pastors wifes to begin alienating us from having any support…he got away with it every single time oveer a ten year period, i also had a deacon come to court with him over a restraining order hearing when this deacon NEVER even spoke to us but was willing to testify for my husband!!!!! That is how manipulative abusers are and churches, pastors are all fair game, I was actually told by a pastor in southern oregon that perhaps it was gods will for me to go home at the hands of my husband!!!! That was a turnign point for me. i spent over ten years trying to be free with my kids in tow, lost my home, over and over, got stript of finances, had sole custody but after i dissapeared to be safe the courts gave him custody in my absence. BUT I AM STILL HERE< AND MY KIDS ARE WITH ME, and I did it without the support of the church quite the opposite. He could beat me, But he cannot beat me and i will protect my kids with my own life no matter what. I wish i could say this was isolated, but i know that there are so many others who have suffered as we did by being shunned, humiliated, emotionally terrorized and physically hurt. So i am just one person who is taking a stand and hope that someday I can make a difference in others outcomes.
    Be Blessed

  8. memphis says:

    i would like to add that both family court and the church ignored a ten year span of restraining orders, felony assault charges, even when i provided the documentation so that we could show he was a manipulator…and the church still supported him becasue they felt sorry for him but blamed my lack of forgiveness and understanding and that i needed to let go of the past. Also family courts do not connect the dots between spousal abuse and the danger it presents to children with there protective parent not being able to be there for them all the time…there is no safety net for children when you try to leave legally, parental rights superecede their rights to safety and to be free from abuse. Both the courts and church blame the victoms with statements like, if he was so bad then why did you stay? OR why didnt you just leave for the sade of your kids??? Both places battered women go to for support actually just put them into further double binds blaming her for staying THEN punishing her if she leaves!!!! I want to help make this stop!!!

  9. memphis says:

    Also it is important to note that in civil court i won all my cases BUT all the felony, restraint orders, the stalking, the police reports, the witnesses of his abuse to me physically none of it translated into family court, DiFFERENT COURT< DIFFERENT MATTERS.

    I had pastors from church see bruises on me and tell me iif it happens to me, its one thing BUT if he touches the children then I AM obligated to leave for the sake of kids.
    In other words being abused by my husband and my childrens exposer to it was entirely my responsibility to make it stop!!! NOBODY ever even tried to hold him accountable, they jus pat him on the back when he cried about it and said its okay brother just try harder. Or he would talk about suicide, whatever it took to deflect his actions, he also did that standard bit about how he thought i was cheating which provoked him to anger….so the pastors always treated me like some sort of harlot, judging me before ever talking to me, even saying in front of my husband that "She dresses to be looked at" even though compared to their wives i was very conservative. Honestly ABUSE and the perpetrators of it are rampant in fellowship churches, especially where we use to live all up and down southern and northern Oregon. So i suspect its probably the same dynamics across the board. Unfortunately, these men in these positions are perpetuating wheter out of ignorance or no, they are perpetuating violence against women and children.

  10. Robin says:

    Thank you. I lived for years in a marriage that was horrific due to DV. I finally got out and although many of the Women of Christ who were my Christian sisters encouraged me to stay and work it out, I was blessed to have a pastor who was courageous and told me to get out ! I did and I am blessed. It has been 13 years and God has been with me every step of the way. My family stood by me and gave me the support that I needed so that my two children would not suffer, they are both in college and doing very well. You can move forward and God will heal your heart, you don’t have to live with DV.

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