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Friday, February 22, 2008

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.

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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
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