Friday, September 5, 2008

The Truth about Christian Women and Abuse

Jesus said we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free. Since only the truth can set us free, it goes without saying, that without the truth, we cannot be free. So what is the truth about Christian women and abuse?

Is it true that Christian women experience abuse? Some say they don’t. Others acknowledge that abuse is taking place but deny responsibility for determining the real truth concerning individual situations. Still others do not deny the abuse at all but encourage Christian wives to submit to it, to pray and, above all, to stay in the marriage and be willing to suffer for Christ.

What is the truth about Christian women and abuse? And, more importantly, are we willing to allow the truth in regards to this very controversial issue to set us free?

It is a sad fact that many Christian wives do experience abuse and are even battered by their husbands. It is also a fact that even in situations where the abuse is acknowledged by Church leaders, it is sometimes acknowledged only because it has become politically correct to do so and then, as quickly as possible, is swept under the rug.

One case in point involves a young wife who went to her pastor for support because her husband was treating her abusively, to the point of physical violence. She had, in fact, already separated from her husband, and an emergency order of protection was in place. Her pastor assured her that he believed her and was supportive of her taking whatever steps she felt necessary in order to feel safe. However, during the same counseling session, she was warned that because her violent husband was also a member in good standing within that same congregation—and was vigorously denying the abuse, she was not to attempt to garner support by telling other church members her side of the story. She was bluntly told that the Church was not called to be on a “fact-finding” mission, and she was expected to keep her experience to herself. She was forbidden to burden her church family with the need to discern the real truth of the situation.

Is that an example of the truth setting free?

The young wife is not free. It is true that she is free from the violence and feels relatively safe—but now she also feels abused and betrayed by the very church family she looked to for support as she attempted to navigate a very difficult and painful transition in her life. But how can they help bear her burden when she has been forbidden by her pastor to tell them the truth?

The pastor is not free. He fears the truth. Because if he acknowledges the truth, he will be obligated to act upon it by initiating, due to the violent nature of the offense, some sort of Church discipline against the violent husband.

The congregation is not free. The truth is being hidden from them.

And, lastly, the abusive husband is certainly not free. By refusing to confront him with the truth, his Christian leadership is failing in at least attempting to assist this man in coming to a place of repentance, which could possibly bring help free him from the sin of abusing those he claims to love.

What excuse is there that can justify refusal to walk in the truth that our Lord assures us will set us all free?

As the author of, Woman Submit: Christians & Domestic Violence, and founder of The Dorcas Network, a network devoted to empowering Christians to respond compassionately, effectively and biblically to families experiencing abuse and domestic violence, I am frequently contacted by those who claim abuse and domestic violence is not really an issue in our modern culture at all, much less the epidemic it is said to be—and certainly not among Christians. It is claimed, instead, that the issue is altogether a creation of hysterical feminists who are using it to further an evil agenda aimed at destroying the family, but even a cursory glance at the United States Department of Justice Family Violence Statistics refutes such claims and confirms that women are indeed frequent victims of abuse and domestic violence.

An independent survey done by the Methodist Church in conjunction with the University of Surrey Roehampton under the auspices of the Southlands Methodist Centre, shows that Christian women are well represented among the large numbers of women who experience abuse. According to that survey, one in four Christian women will experience domestic violence at least once in her lifetime.

There is compelling evidence that violence against women is a serious reality—and Christian women are certainly not exempt from this reality.

Are those who insist the Church should maintain a comfortable neutrality in the case of abuse or domestic violence, between spouses, telling us the truth? Should Christians be at all concerned with knowing the truth of individual situations? Are all such “fact-finding” missions wrong?

Not if they are done in the right spirit and for the right reasons.

Christian leaders should be about the Father’s business of helping those within their congregations to know the truth about Christian women and abuse. Christian leaders should be assisting those who come to them for help in finding freedom from the abuse. And that cannot be done without first knowing the truth…which Jesus emphatically promises will set us all free.

Jocelyn Andersen

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Eagle Forum: No Longer PRO-FAMILY -- Open letter to Phyllis Schlafly

Dear Phyllis Schlafly,

I am Jocelyn Andersen, author of, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence. I mailed a copy of my book to the Eagle Forum office some months back. I do not know if you received it or not. I also contacted, via email, an Eagle Forum leader and asked her to forward the email to you. It contained my comments about what you were publishing concerning domestic violence, along with a plea for you to reconsider your position on the issue. I included a PDF copy of the book in that email just in case you did not receive the print copy. I have never received a reply to either communication.

Domestic Violence destroys families. Women are dying because of domestic violence. Yet, for some reason, you have chosen to embrace and promote the cause of blatantly anti-female and anti-family organizations. You use the tremendous voice God has bestowed on you through Eagle Forum in foisting these off on political and religious leaders as PRO-FAMILY advocates—which they most decidedly are not.

Groups such as, the American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC) and Media RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting), are not pro-family. A mere glance at their websites and at the sites of other so-called “family or father's rights” groups who look to them for leadership and support—hundreds of them—reveals an agenda that is dedicated to basically one thing—proving that most women are liars and willing to manipulate the legal systems, and in the process, destroy their husbands and families, in order to get what they want.

Many of these “father’s / family rights” websites (Media RADAR topping the list) are admittedly dedicated to proving that most allegations of domestic violence are false, and that it is not a real problem within our culture—and if it is, these men are claiming that it is the women who are the primary aggressors and instigators of family violence.

You say these organizations have hundreds of surveys proving that women are the primary aggressors and abusers while men are the real victims?

Department of Justice statistics do not back up the results of these surveys. The facts and figures cannot be altered. The injured and dead remain the injured and dead. More than 3 dead women every day—1400 dead women a year—testify to the fact that domestic violence is indeed a destroyer. Mark B. Rosenthal wrote the truth about "surveys." While writing for Media RADAR, he said, "With a U.S. population of 297 million, it's possible to cherrypick a small non-representative sample to prove nearly anything."

The objective facts are these, 30% of female homicides are committed by intimate partners. 5% of male homicides are committed by intimate partners. So how does that translate into, "Women are the real aggressors and men are the real victims?" I'd say we have 200+ cherry picking surveyors out there—Including Media RADAR which sponsored one of the most recent.

Domestic violence is a sin and a crime regardless of who perpetrates it. Just because the facts reveal males are more likely to commit violent crimes than females does not mean we need to allow this thing to degenerate into an all out gender war—which it has, and which Eagle Forum, apparently with great enthusiasm, has enlisted in.

I was so disappointed to see that, within the evangelical community, the voice of Phyllis Schlafly has been one of the loudest in contributing to the oppression of women by attempting to refute the claims of those experiencing violence and abuse.
I beg you to reconsider your position. The facts simply do not back it up.

Abuse and Domestic violence are destroyers not only of families, but of physical lives as well. Yet you continue to lump most women who claim to be victims of domestic violence in the "radical feminist" camp, while advocating for male supremists who masquerade (poorly) as "pro-family" advocates—and spend much time (along with non-profit dollars) attempting to debunk the claim that millions of American women (and by extension entire families) are affected adversely by domestic violence.

Do these detractors have a leg to stand on? According to The Department of Justice, they do not. Statistics show that 1 in 3 households are effected by domestic violence.

How many "households" are there in the United States? According to the census bureau, the 2007 estimate was well over 111 million households in this country (they project 115 million by the year 2010).
Do the math.

Multiple millions of people are effected by domestic violence, and according to Department of Justice statistics, most of the direct recipients of the violence are women.

Yet in spite of overwhelming evidence proving that abuse and domestic violence are a real danger to women and children in this country (and yes, even among professing evangelical Christians), you have repeatedly made public appearances on behalf of men and organizations that go to great lengths in attempting to convince the American public and our leaders otherwise.

You appeared on Glenn Sack's radio program. Glenn Sacks is a male supremist who is at least honest about the fact that he is only interested in advocating for men. But "pro-family" cannot even begin to describe his agenda. What in the world were you doing there?

You have appeared with leaders of ACFC and Media RADAR in advocating their cause. And you have interviewed them as guests on your radio program. You have lent the tremendous influence Eagle Forum wields in a big way to a bad cause.

And the end is not in sight. According to the Eagle Forum website, you plan to put Stephen Baskerville, president of the American Coalition of Fathers and Children (ACFC) behind the podium at your next Leadership Conference. He will be there promoting his book, TAKEN INTO CUSTODY, which Eagle Forum endorses.

It is a fact that family court injustices happen to good fathers and mothers. There are both men and women who will abuse both children and the legal system for their own wicked ends. But men like Baskerville, push for shared custody while falsely blaming mothers for deliberately slicing fathers out of the picture in areas of child custody. Mothers are accused of turning children against their fathers while fraudulently claiming abuse or domestic violence.

Stephen Baskerville’s position is fundamentally skewed—based as it is upon a false premise. I have met and briefly spoken with Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D., the coordinator of Trauma Disorder Services for Children at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Silberg has extensive training and experience in the areas of child custody and false accusations. She does not agree that shared custody is good for children. Nor does her experience reveal that most accusations of abuse in custody cases are false.

Any honest, thinking, person can see that the family court system is in desperate need of reform and also that it is not pro-family. But neither are the men in these so-called "family / father's rights" groups pro-family. These groups occupy acres of web-real estate in which they teach each other how to successfully use the legal systems against the mothers of their children. It is absolutely evil.

It is not fathers who are losing their rights. Rather, it is mothers who are losing their children—completely.

I have personally met and spoken with both Wendy Titelman and Jonea Schillaci, mothers who, with overwhelming legal evidence attesting to their former husband's sexual abuse of their daughters, not only lost custody of their children to the abusive parent, but lost their children altogether. Wendy Titelman is permitted to have zero contact with her daughters (she has not seen them in years), and I believe Jonea is allowed brief, infrequent, "supervised" visits. It is an absolute outrage. It is a legal atrocity. And the list does not even begin to stop with these two.

Wendy Titelman has been completely stripped of her children and they have been stripped of their mother. She is Rachel crying for her children because they are not.

I am having a difficult time comprehending how you can continue to ignore such overwhelming evidence that it is protective parents (both male and female—but mostly female) who are suffering blatant discrimination in the family courts—largely due to the application of the late Richard Gardner’s PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME (PAS) to any case where a child or mother claims abuse has taken place at the hands of the father. PAS is not endorsed by the APA, it is junk science, and the man who has managed to hold sway in so many family courts through his prolific writing (and financial backing) has committed suicide—by stabbing himself to death. And his writings should be used to teach family court judges, social workers and custody evaluators about mental and emotional health? In addition to this, the man was a pedophile. His public statements and writings attest to this fact—I refer you to The Leadership Council, in which Dr. Joyanna Silberg is vice president, which provides documentation of Gardner's pedophilic statements and writings. Before his suicide, Gardner stated that he felt our culture seriously overreacts to the crime of pedophilia.

The organizations Eagle Forum is now endorsing, ACFC and Media RADAR, all promote Richard Gardner and his writings.

Why, instead of defending men who deny abuse happens as frequently as it does, and who use the writings of a pedophile to back their case, when the statistics prove otherwise—are you not defending protective parents, who include large numbers of women who have been battered and children who are being given to parents who are abusing and/or molesting them? These claims are not the rantings of hysterical feminists as you so loudly and repeatedly proclaim—these things are indeed happening.

I wish I could continue to consider Eagle Forum a PRO-FAMILY organization, but in light of your continued refusal to acknowledge obvious facts and public endorsement of individuals and organizations who are blatantly anti-family, I regret that I can no longer do so.