The Church’s Response to Domestic Violence
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.