Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Preparing to be Prepared

Battered women usually turn to their family, friends and pastors for help before making the decision to resort legal to options and resources.

As a church family, are we prepared to be prepared when a fellow member turns to us experiencing a domestic violence crisis? Because in a violent marriage, the crisis will come, and usually with little or no warning. How quickly will we be able to respond when that happens?

There are churches with wonderful systems in place to ensure that members in need do not fall through the cracks. Women's ministries often have their procedures down to a science when ministering to church members who are experiencing illness or a death in the family. How important is it to ensure that a wife who is in crisis due to domestic violence receives an immediate, knowledgable and practical response to her need? In her case, the threat of injury or death is very real.

Who, in our congregations, is the most knowledgeable in how to proceed when informed of a domestic violence situation? If it is not the pastor, does the pastor know who this person is? Do other church members know who this person (or persons) is?

Church fellowships need to get involved with short term crisis intervention while a victim works out the details of her long term plans and needs. Short term needs would include shelter and counseling.These are usually very temporary. Who in your church knows of a safe place where a battered wife can go in times of crisis?

For long term needs, legal assistance will most likely be needed. Not all attorney's are trained in how to represent the needs of a domestic violence victim. Who in your congregation is knowledgeable about legal resources and attorney's who are qualified in this area of law?

Are we ready to help bear the burdens of the battered wives in our midst? Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Perpetuating Abuse Through Litigation

Gail's children are currently in the custody of their father (who has been convicted and served jail time for physically assaulting and battering Gail on more than one occasion).

The children are being abused, neglected and sexually molested by their custodial father. The courts will not remove the children from this environment in spite of documented evidence the abuse is indeed taking place.

In addition to abusing the children, Gail's ex-husband is using his money and the court system to harass and abuse her through litigation. The father has money and can afford sharp lawyers. Gail has no money and cannot get an attorney.

This family desperately needs our prayers. In addition to all of the above Gail also needs her heart healed and repentence to take place in her life. Although she is in church every Sunday, she is very angry with God.

This is an authentic situation as related to Jocelyn Andersen by Gail--a non-custodial mother (her name has been changed as she is currently in litigation).

Friday, February 22, 2008

How Can We Know Whether or Not an Abuser has Really Changed

How to Tell If Abusers Are Not Changing Abusive Behavior
(If an abuser is female simply exchange “He/Him” for “She/Her”)

An abuser has not changed when the following factors are present:

  • Says, “I can't change unless you do,” or “I've changed, but you aren't changing.” This is an attempt to convince the victim to give up rights and freedoms in exchange for not being abused.
  • Says, “I'm not the only one who needs help.” This is refusal to accept personal accountability for the abuse--trying to gain sympathy from the victim, family members and friends. The abuser who says this, is still lying about the abuse and attempting to cover it up. There is no acknowledgement that the abuse was wrong—no remorse concerning the abuse, only sorrow that there are consequences to pay.
  • Refusal to allow the subject of the abuse to come up or gets angry when it does
  • Refusal to discuss controlling behaviors and attitudes
  • Continues to deny the abuse, minimize it, excuse, or justify it
  • Defends abusive behaviors—Insists that the victim “just get past it.”
  • The abuser plays the victim by asking question such as, "How could you do this to me?"
  • The abuser continues to blame the victim for all the problems
  • Overly charming behavior—continually reminding the victim of all “the good times” and ignoring the bad
  • Trying to buy victim back with romantic gifts, dinners, flowers. All while insisting on the need to stay together to work it out (abuse must be stopped. It cannot be “worked out.”
  • Refusal to seek help or He promises to get counseling or other help, but never does.
  • Seeks help then attempts to convince the victim that he is cured, pressuring her to take him back now. Examples: "Now that I'm in this program, you have to be more understanding." Or "I'm learning a lot from this program". If an abuser is using this kind of pressure, then as soon as he gets his way, he will most likely drop the program. This is why it is very critical that if you are considering reconciliation, then watch his behaviors, talk in depth, and give it time. If he is really changing, he will respect your desires on this.
  • Sometimes, instead of counseling, the abuser will suddenly claim to have found God; he goes to church a few times. He might even go as far as to get baptized and join a church.
  • The abuser cries and begs. They particularly like to do this in a public situation so that the victim becomes embarrassed and appears to be "cold hearted."
  • Does things to sabotage the victim’s efforts to make it on her own.
  • Harassment or stalking - If the victim asks for space or time, the abuser refuses to allow it and continues to make contact—Harassing by phone calls, threats, legal frustrations, showing up at work, or hanging around family.
  • Continues to restrict the rights of the victim
  • Continues to behave in a superior manner
  • Continues to make it difficult for the victim to express herself or speak freely
  • Continues to demand constant attention – will not allow the victim to take care of her own needs.
  • Continues to put down and criticize the victim - ignores her strengths and contributions to the relationship.
  • Refusal to support the victim’s independence or to acknowledge her rights
  • Holds on to double standards
  • Continues to deny victim her fair share of the marital assets, i.e., money
  • His wants and needs continue to be placed above all else
  • Refusal to recognize damage caused by the abuse
  • Becomes angry with the victim over consequences she has suffered due to his abuse
  • Is angry or seems confused as to why you fear him, do not trust him, or are hurt and angry with him
  • Attempts to avoid consequences by trying to convince the you that something is wrong with you for allowing him to have any consequences
  • Behaving as if he is above reproach
  • Claiming that he would never hurt you - despite the fact that he has done many things to hurt you
  • Angry with you for leaving - instead of recognizing your right to have done so
  • Behaves as if you owe him
  • Impatient or critical with you for not forgiving him immediately – or not being satisfied with changes he claims he has made but you see no evidence of, or with changes he may have made but were not the changes you requested
  • Only seems concerned with how difficult the situation is for him and no one else
    • Feels sorry for himself
  • Does not show appropriate concern for how you and the children feel about what he's done - Abuse does more than just hurt, it is damaging, and if he does not show appropriate concern for the damage he has done, then he has not changed.
  • Still does things that are inappropriate for an intimate relationship - Cheating, not including you in family decisions, hoarding all the marital assets such as money, property, cars, stocks, bonds, etc. and refusing to allow you to have access to them.
  • Says he can only change if you help him - wants emotional support and forgiveness, and for the victim to return home immediately.
  • He claims to be changing, but you can see that he is not
  • He becomes angry with you for not realizing how much he has changed
  • He becomes angry with you for not trusting that he has changed - Abusers often apologize, and then become angry if forgiveness is not immediately forthcoming, as if saying, “I’m sorry,” instantly resolves the matter. The victim is expected to drop everything, and just move forward.
  • The abuser applies pressure for a reconciliation, because he can't “wait forever."
  • He is rude about you to the children
  • He threatens and tries to intimidate you – This is default behavior for most abusers. If you do not stop asking for change, he generally will convert to threats and attempts to intimidate. This often includes threats to attack family and friends, threats to kill you or "put out a contract on you," Threats that he will take the children away or get custody of them himself, or threats to kill himself.

These are all signs that the abuser has no intention of changing his behavior. This is then, his choice of how he wants to live his life. Your choice is, can you live with his choice?

Sticky Situation

A Pastor's Wife Said:
>>It can be a sticky situation when you know both the husband and the wife in the situation and you care for them both...you have to the remain neutral. You can end up bringing your work home with you and start causing confusion in your own home.<<

Jocelyn Replies:

Here is where it gets stickier.

In a normal situation where a church member is accused of blatantly practicing a sinful lifestyle (which is what Domestic violence consists of), the Bible instructs us to approach the offending party and confront him with the known facts. If repentence is not forth-coming, then we are instructed to take witnesses to the facts and approach him again. If there is still no repentence, we are then instructed to present the case before the church and remove the person from fellowship if necessary.

In the case of a violent husband, the Biblical instruction makes no exception, except that it would be best if the wife was out of the home and in a place of safety before any such action is undertaken, or her life and safety could be seriously compromised. In my case, I did not leave my violent husband before he was confronted by our church leadership, but chose to stay in the home and save my marriage (that decision almost cost me my life).

As I said, my husband and I were not separated when he was confronted with his sin by the pastors of our church, who made it very clear to him that they were supporting me in every way. In fact, when the next assault came, it was my pastor who called the police--not me.

If a woman comes to us while still living in the home with her husband, sometimes all we can do is believe her, pray for her, be there for her at all times, and encourage her (without blame and condescension) to take steps that will ensure her safety. Choices must be based on each individual situation with the wife's safety always uppermost in mind.

I disagree with the pastor's wife who made the comment at the beginning of this article. I continue to maintain, that neutrality is never an option. Not even when both parties are known and loved. My violent [former] husband was a well loved, associate pastor of our church.

I appreciate the fact that forgiveness on the part of the battered spouse must take place. I understand all too well the importance of that. But neutrality on the part of church leaders is certainly not an option.

My pastors were aware of what was going on in my violent marriage. And I Thank God they were courageous enough not to take a politically correct, "neutral" position. I thank God that they were more than willing to take their problems home with them when they invited me into their home, for my safety, on more than one occasion (although I do recommend wisdom and caution here as wife-beaters are becoming increasingly more dangerous towards those who assist battered wives).

Below is an excerpt from my book that deals with the response of wife-beaters to counseling solutions. I believe this excerpt is relevant to this article:

...in an abusive or violent marriage, the rules do not apply? for the simple reason that one of the members of the marriage does not acknowledge the rules as applying to him.

Physical violence is against the law, yet the wife-beater breaks the law. He sees one law for himself and another law for everyone else. If he disdains civil law, what makes us think the laws of God will mean anything to him?

Could professional counseling help? It might, if the batterer would seek it. He rarely does. What about pastoral counseling? Many abusers are professing Christians. They are often active in their churches. Some are Pastors in their churches. Some might be willing to seek pastoral counseling. But are most pastors qualified to deal with abusive situations? In my personal experience, no, they are not.

I sought help from both pastors and licensed counselors. None of the pastors I approached (and only one of the licensed counselors) were qualified to deal with the problems in my marriage. And none gave me any advice that I found helpful in navigating the situation.

I had been doing much research into the subject myself, and received acknowledgements from more than one of them that I probably knew more about the dynamics of such a relationship than they did. It truly is a dark arena. One counselor even admitted to being intimidated by such a knowledgeable client.

I was told more than once there was no hope for my marriage (who besides God could know that?), and one of them came right out and blamed me for the abuse. She said I had trained my husband to be abusive?she probably learned that from listening to Drs. Minirth and Meier's Christian Psychology Radio Clinic on Moody radio, or by reading their book, Happiness Is a Choice, which places the blame squarely on the battered wife for the fact that her husband beats her.

Time and again, I was put on the defensive by the very ones I went to for help. They all wanted to know why I stayed (sound familiar?).

In seeking a counselor for such a marriage, experienced, professional, counsel for the abuser must be sought--not a marriage counselor for the couple. Marriage counseling for couples will not work in a domestic violence situation--at least not at first. It is essential that someone well trained, with a successful track record in working with abusers be sought.

I do not usually recommend that Christians seek counseling from non-Christian counselors, but in this case, if a qualified Christian counselor cannot be found, I make an exception. The reason for this is, we are dealing with physical violence--assault. Women can and do die from being assaulted by their husbands. We are talking about saving lives. Even if the batterer is a professing Christian, he is demonstrating absolutely no regard for what God says about his behavior. He is rebelling against God by living a lifestyle contrary to biblical teachings. He is breaking the law. He is wreaking havoc and destruction on every life that is within his sphere of influence. If there is no qualified Christian counselor available and a non-Christian counselor has demonstrated an ability to help abusers see the attitudes that lead to such destruction and can help them change their behavior, and possibly help save a life and a family, I say go for it.

Studies do show that the safety of battered wives often improves while the batterer is participating in a batterer prevention program, and what is there to prevent God from doing a transforming work in someone's life through a secular program? Who is to say this may not be the vehicle God chooses for some?

Unfortunately, even with counseling, most abusers are reluctant to seek real change. They often attend counseling sessions only under extreme pressure, such as their wife leaving or a court order, and are really only seeking a way to restore the status quo back to where they want it--which is their wife living in the home and them in complete control.

My abusive husband received court ordered counseling. It helped. He attended group sessions for three months, but he refused to continue past the time ordered by the court. Within two weeks of discontinuing counseling, he returned to his former abusive behavior. For us, the batterer's intervention program was only a temporary remedy. However, I do not rule out the possibility that someone else might experience more lasting results than my spouse did. Admittedly, though, my faith in counseling as a solution to marital violence is minimal.

It turns out that professional studies in Florida agree with me on this. Follow-up studies have shown no difference at all in the numbers of men who re-assault their wives as compared to those ordered into programs or those just getting probation. Other studies conclude that, overall, there is some success among batterers who complete the programs.

The catch is getting them to complete the programs--48% drop out. Findings reveal most of the success takes place while the abusive men are actively attending weekly sessions, but many quickly relapse into violent behavior when the counseling is discontinued.

Arrest and prosecution have been proven, by far, to be the best method in deterring violence.


If a wife does leave the home, and the violent husband exhibits repentence, every effort should be made, when and if the time comes, to restore that man back into church fellowship--that can only happen if the sin is confessed, repented of and steps are taken in the form of seeking some tangible help in overcoming the issues that caused the violence in the first place. This does not consist of marriage counseling for the couple--although they might benefit from it later.

Wife-beaters are very manipulative, willing to lie (a man that will beat his wife, will not hesitate to lie) and fake repentence or a conversion if that is what it takes to get their way. So I would not be hasty in restoring a violent man back into fellowship unless he actually "completed" a course (or courses) of anger management or whatever helpful resource is available to him--at the very least.

In addition to these facts being backed up by research, I speak from experience.

My violent [former] husband **did not comply with court ordered anger managment classes. Even so, and after 6 months of no violence in our home, our pastor was convinced of true repentence and deliverance from anger issues and wife-beating habits. My husband was released from Church Discipline and restored to his position of associate pastor.

Less than a month later he tried to kill me.

The attack is described in chapter one of my book. That chapter can be read online at www.WomanSubmit.com , and the police photo's of my injuries can be seen on the front and back covers of the book.

**Over a period of nine years, I experienced abuse and domestic violence through two abusive marriages. Facts that held true for one marriage do not necessarily hold true for both. For simplicity's sake, in the book, the marriages are treated as one composite marriage

You TWO Need to Get it Together!

I was fortunate to have a very supportive pastor as I was struggling through most of that last difficult year with my [former] violent husband. But everyone has their limits, and at one point my pastor (who had obviously reached his limit) became fed up with the abusive situation in our home and said to me, "you two just need to get it together!"

It was very painful for me to hear that. And my pastor was dead wrong.

The old saying, "It takes two to tango," cannot be applied in a domestically violent situation as the assaults do not always come as a result of an argument or any provocation that takes place within the relationship. They happen because a violent, controlling person becomes angry and chooses to exhibit abusive or violent behavior. And it usually has nothing to do with anything the victim has done or not done.

In an abusive or domestic violence situation, it is entirely inappropriate to ask the abused/battered party to accept any portion of the blame for the situation. The only party that can be held morally or legally responsible for the abuse or violence is the one perpetrating it.