Monday, June 14, 2010

Are You Safe?

It is awkward for those who have had little or no experience in the matter to reach out to someone they suspect may be a victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence, but there are some non-offensive ways of approaching the subject if given an opening. For instance, It was confided to me by a fellow church member that she was experiencing marital problems and was planning on separating from her husband. I could have recommend that she and her husband see one of the pastors for couple's counseling, but I suspected something was going on beyond simple marital discord. I gently asked the woman if she was safe, and her story came tumbling out. She had not confided in anyone at church what she had been going through, and she was devastated at the thought of leaving her abusive husband, but knew she had to. I assured her that the safety of her daughter and herself was paramount, and that she could take time to contemplate the future once that was accomplished.

One step at a time really does apply when it comes to leaving a violent or potentially violent home. And assuring a woman (who is going through the tortuous process of trying to plan for the future while her present is nothing but chaos) that she does not have to deal with all her tomorrows today can be very soothing as there is little doubt that she is frantic about tomorrow as well as her current situation.

Use wisdom, but do get involved. These women need your friendship and support as they struggle to make decisions of life and death import.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only thing that makes me cry more than the abuse of my recently separated husband, is the bystander role of the faith community. This was my family for 20 years, as my own family live overseas and his lives elsewhere in the country. Yet, when I needed this family the most, all I got was re-injury. I trusted them, believed them and did everything they suggested. All it did was add to the abuse.

In the end, I had to do what was counter-intuitive and trust the secular professionals who were far more concerned for my safety, cared for me practically, listened with far greater patience and empowered me far more than the church family did.

Even now, it is the secular professionals that I am getting help from to continue on this journey. Fortunately, they are very respectful and sensitive to my beliefs. And my own unchurched parents and siblings have been very supportive, proving that in the end, blood is thicker than water and when it comes to your own flesh and blood, theology doesn't matter - only a person's safety and wellbeing does.

I still don't know how to tell my church friends what the real issue is. They only hear his side because he will tell it very gladly, although he has asked me not to tell people about our separation. And so the uninformed are praying for our reconciliation.

I am awaiting for the day that pastors and leaders of church organisations RECOGNISE domestic abuse when they see it. Then they will think to ask about safety instead of suggesting trips away or joint mediating sessions.