Give Abused Women the Help They Need
- 2010 21 Dec
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark's book, No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
Women from every walk of life are suffering abuse throughout the world today at the hands of men they love - so much so, that domestic violence is a leading cause of death and disability among women. Often, these hurting women seek help from the people who should care the most about freeing them from their oppression: Christians. But too many Christians fail to help abused women, letting the evil of abuse continue in many homes where men proclaim faith in Christ yet ignore His commands to truly love the women close to them.
Don't ignore the abuse that women you know - even women at your church - are going through, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you. Choose to become part of the solution by answering God's call to give abused women the help they need. Here's how:
Ask God to open your eyes to prevalence and severity of the problem. Pray for the ability to notice women around you who are suffering from physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse, and to feel compassion for the women and also for the hurting men who are inflicting their pain on the women they abuse. Seek to understand some of the common reasons why women struggle to break free of abusive relationships, such as fear of what men might do if they leave, hope that the men will change their abusive behavior, and the economic dependence of some women on men. Realize that domestic violence is a complex and serious problem that affects many couples - including many Christian ones - who desperately need people willing to minister to them with God's love. Keep in mind that the home is no place for abuse, and the church is no place for silence, so don't turn away whenever you encounter the reality of abuse taking place in the lives of women you know.
Increase awareness in your church. Use means such as sermon illustrations, information packets, posters, and training materials to inform your congregation about domestic violence and urge them to be alert to it among people in their own community.
Condemn abusive behavior. Speak out against domestic violence whenever you have an opportunity to do so, making it clear that God does not condone abusive behavior in any circumstances.
Educate people. Teach people how to deal with their disappointments and frustrations in nonviolent ways when they gather for adult Bible studies or Sunday school classes, or during youth group meetings. When engaged couples go through their premarital counseling at your church, help them learn how to resolve conflicts in healthy ways and understand that authority in the home is meant for loving servant leadership rather than controlling and dominating another person. Train church staff and volunteers how to recognize signs that people may be suffering abuse, as well as how to reach out to those people in practical and effective ways. In sermons, discuss the importance of respecting other people and working to build and maintain peaceful relationships.
Provide safe places for people to talk. Give the people who attend your church plenty of opportunities to talk honestly with others about the problems they're struggling with - including abusive relationships. Train people who participate in small groups and prayer events to listen carefully to people without judging them, and to respect people's confidentiality. Whether your church is ministering to abused women or to the men who abuse them, offer respite from turmoil and the encouragement and support they need to pursue healing.
Give people resources for practical help. Connect with people in your church's local area who offer services to abused women, such as domestic violence shelter workers and officials from community agencies that give practical assistance to abused women. Be ready to refer people from your church to people like them in your surrounding community whenever the need arises.
Never advise abused women to continue to endure abuse. Be clear about the fact that women are not following Jesus' example of suffering by allowing themselves to suffer abuse, since Jesus' suffering was a voluntary decision that He made to redeem the world, while abused women don't choose to be abused, and their suffering doesn't serve any redemptive purpose. If you're counseling a wife with an abusive husband, recognize that God does hate divorce, but He permits it in cases of abuse to protect the people He loves. Whatever a woman's relationship with a man who abuses her, never endanger her well-being by advising her to stay in an abusive situation where the man refuses to change his behavior.
Help abusers repent and victims forgive. Encourage men who have abused women to confess their sins, and hold them accountable to make sure that they have truly repented - changed their behavior so that they don't do anything abusive anymore - before encouraging reconciliation in their relationships with the women they had previously abused. Realize that their healing process will probably take a long time, during which they'll need constant support. Encourage abused women to rely on God's strength to help them forgive their abusers rather than seeking revenge, but differentiate between forgiveness and reconciliation, since forgiveness is always possible with God's help, but reconciliation isn't always wise (especially in cases where abusers haven't completely changed their behavior). Help abused women see that when they forgive their abusers, they free themselves from bitterness that would otherwise poison their souls. Urge abused women to seek daily empowerment from the Holy Spirit to move on to healthier lives.
Adapted from No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence, copyright 2010 by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Catherine Kroeger is adjunct professor of classical and ministry studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. With James Beck, she edited Women, Abuse and the Bible and Healing the Hurting, and with Mary J. Evans she edited The IVP Women's Bible Commentary and The Women's Study Bible (Oxford University Press). She is a coauthor (with Nancy Nason-Clark) of No Place for Abuse.
Nancy Nason-Clark is professor f sociology at University of New Brunswick, Canada. Her books include No Place for Abuse, Refuge from Abuse and The Battered Wife: How Christians Confront Family Violence. She is the creator of the RAVE (Religion and Violence e-Learning) Project website, which you can visit at: www.theraveproject.org.