Domestic Abuse: How to Help a Victim

domestic abuseDOMESTIC ABUSE: Here’s wisdom on counseling victims. Guest writer Joshua Waulk, director of Baylight Counseling, says domestic abuse is anti-gospel and anti-Christ. His article appeared first here and is used with permission. PLUS: Get a safety plan! 

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Domestic abuse, in all forms, represents a gross departure from how Scripture portrays biblical marriage, including the example of self-sacrificial love modeled for the church by Jesus.

Recently, I read an article at the site of a counseling ministry that addressed a wife whose husband had the whole family “walking on egg shells.” He had explosive behavior. While physical abuse was not alledged, there was clear indication the family was suffering emotionally since the husband and father subjected them to his fits of anger.

Reading this wife’s story was disheartening, but not surprising. Socially, we know that domestic abuse is now and has been for many a debilitating, sometimes years long reality. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, in their book, “Is It My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence,” wrote the following:

Abusers often find ways to hurt the whole person. They shred their victim’s sense of self-worth, crush their wills, and violate their bodies. The effects are widespread and catastrophic—including physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage. If left untended, these effects will be ongoing, no matter how long ago the abuse happened. This is why it is important to deal with them honestly now.

I would like to think that these truths are not novel to anyone in counseling or pastoral ministry. Yet there’s a reason many keep pounding the drum.

We Don’t Question Victims of Domestic Abuse

“I don’t know whether you’re a great wife or your kids are angels…”

The line you just read was inluded in the counselor’s response to the wife mentioned above. She was exasperated at her husband’s erractic and sinful behavior, so she sought wise counsel from a third party. This is no small thing. We cannot afford to miss an opportunity to come to the side of an abused wife or child. Frankly, we may not get a second chance.

Often times, wives and children suffering at the hands of a manipulative tyrant are too overcome with fear to reach out for help. Perpetrators of domestic abuse often convince their victims that to seek help is to risk much more in retrobution and fallout than they might wish to endure. Examples include severe physical harm, loss of children, loss of finanical support, and so on..

Counselors, especially those who serve the church in any official capacity, must be aware of indications of domestic abuse. They must be resolved to never tolerate or give quarter to an abuser or their abusive behavior, regardless of the consequences that follow. Where marriage and family is concerned, biblical counselors must be resolute about this:

In the life of the family, domestic abuse, in all forms,

is anti-gospel and anti-Christ.

We Comfort Victims of Domestic Abuse

This makes questioning the personal, in-home performance of potential victims of domestic abuse a potentially grievous error. Such questioning often shows a lack of care, compassion, and concern for the safety of those involved. It threatens to re-victimize them by sending them into an emotional retreat, potentially convinced of their aggressor’s lies that help is out of reach.

In sum, it shows a lack of understanding and preparation to work with and provide care for victims of domestic abuse. These descriptions must never be true of those who serve as biblical counselors. Biblical counseling, as well as the church proper, ought to represent one place where perpetrators know, without question, they cannot hide their sin.

Domestic abuse represents a dynamic milieu of emotional and spiritual issues. However, addressing the victim and aggressor in the posture of marriage counseling is not the proper place to begin counseling.

In domestic abuse, the problem is not the victim’s alleged shortcomings or even their own sin. The problem to be addressed in counseling first is the condition of the aggressor’s heart that gave rise to abusive behavior in the main. This issue is second only to securing the victim’s safety, a paramount concern.

We Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

Biblical Counselor Brad Hambrick writes,

Until safety is no longer in doubt, other concerns should be only a way of understanding how to create a safe disposition or environment for the individual.

Biblical counselors and those in church ministry must be unwavering here: personal sin and shortcomings are never an ocassion for another, especially one’s own spouse or family member, to engage in acts of domestic abuse.

Whenever biblical or pastoral counselors suspect domestic abuse, let them trust that this is the first issue to be addressed in counseling. And, let the manner in which they counsel, speak hope to victims, repentance to perpetrators, conviction to the church, and the gospel to the culture. (Note: When someone is in danger, call police immediately.)

Resource for Victims

How to Develop a Safety Plan for Domestic Violence by Brad Hambrick

Join the Discussion

  1. What action steps can the church take to communicate to perpetrators that their sin will not be kept hidden?
  2. What action steps can the church take to proactively minister to the domestic abuse victim?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

ABUSE: When Should You Leave the Marriage? (part 3)

abuseAbuse is patently wrong, but when should you leave the marriage or relationship? Keep reading to find out when — and if — you should leave. In part 3 of this four-part series on abuse, biblical counselor Jim Newheiser evaluates common statements made about abuse. His article appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition and is used with permission. Read part 1 and part 2.

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If You Feel You’re Being Mistreated, Should You Leave?

ASSERTION: If you feel that you are being mistreated or controlled, leave the relationship.

A valid concern: This statement is made because there are so many women who stay in dangerously abusive relationships when they have every right to seek safety and refuge.

Possible Harm of Believing the Assertion

The harm that can be caused: Those who are seeking to protect victims of abuse sometimes fail to distinguish between the degrees of sinful mistreatment that can take place in a marriage relationship.

The message some women get is that if your husband is to any extent controlling, manipulative, or angry, then you are in an abusive relationship and you need to get out. Women are told that an angry husband has broken the marriage covenant, and they have the right to divorce.

I affirm that a battered wife has every right to get away from a violent husband and that his failure to repent and to live at peace with her can eventually lead to the breakup of their marriage (1 Cor. 7:15). Sadly, however, I have seen women who are in difficult, but not violent marriages—in which there is often anger on both sides—who use the claim of abuse to divorce their husbands on less than biblical grounds.

The reality is that marriage brings together two sinners. Because of the fall, many marriages involve a struggle for control as described in Genesis 3:16. In many cases, both partners are guilty of sinful anger, which Jesus calls murderous (Matt. 5:21-22).

Wisely Investigating an Abuse Charge

It would be better to say: Wisdom needs to be exercised in distinguishing between degrees of sin in an allegedly abusive situation.

Just as the act of adultery is a greater threat to a marriage than a lustful look (Matt. 5:27-28), there is a difference between physical assault and a harsh word. Because Jesus declared, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6b), every effort should be made to preserve marriages and to help both men and women who have fallen short of perfectly keeping the marriage covenant to change.

Church leaders shouldn’t swing from the extreme of sending women back to abusive situations to the other extreme of encouraging the breakup of marriages which might be restored. A man who refuses to repent of controlling and angry behavior may be put through a process of church discipline. This process will often give the time and space needed for the abuser’s heart to be more clearly revealed.

(Friend, are you in a controlling, destructive, or difficult marriage? Why not get the help you need? Learn more about confidential, compassionate, effective biblical counseling by Skype or in person.

Contact me today.–Lucy)

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Believe the Victim or the Abuser? (part 1)

victim
An abuse victim needs loving support from friends and spiritual leaders. In this multi-part series, guest writer Jim Newheiser
 recognizes a pendulum swing in addressing this very difficult problem. And he provides balance. Read on and let me know: Do you agree with him? Disagree? Please leave a comment or contact me.

This is part 1 in a multi-part series, which appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and is reprinted with permission.

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I am thankful to God that many necessary and important books and articles are being written to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse as they affect both the society at large and the Christian community in particular. Spiritual leaders have been rightly admonished for their failure to protect at-risk women and children.[1]

Abuses which should have been exposed have been covered up, leading to more unnecessary suffering which grieves Christ.

Battered wives have been wrongly told that if they were just more loving and submissive, their husbands would change and the abuse would stop.

They are then wrongly sent back to take further verbal and physical beatings. Many church leaders need to repent of their failure to “rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).

While I affirm the importance of understanding the dark nature of abuse and protecting the victims of abuse, I am concerned that some, in their zeal to correct the failure of the past, have swung too far the other way. This can lead to false accusations and unnecessary family breakups. I would like to give a few examples of what I believe to be common overstatements, and for each one, I will describe the good intention behind the statements, the harm which can be caused because of imbalanced thinking, and a more balanced way of expressing the same concerns.

Always Believe the Victim?

ASSERTION: Always believe the victim.

  1. The valid concern: This statement is made out of sympathy for many victims of abuse whose claims have been rejected as unbelievable when no one could imagine that the perpetrator, who seems like such a nice guy, could have done such a bad thing. Or those hearing the claim may prefer not to get involved in the messiness which will surely follow if the claim is substantiated.
  2. The harm that can be caused: Innocent people have been harmed by false claims of abuse. Some alleged victims have learned how much harm they can do to another person with an accusation of abuse. I had a counseling case in which a fifteen-year-old girl threatened that she would falsely accuse her stepfather of molesting her if he didn’t give her what she wanted. We had another case in which an alleged victim had someone else scratch up her face so that she could call the police and accuse an innocent party of doing it. To be falsely labeled as an abuser can destroy a person’s reputation, damage his career, and potentially lead to false imprisonment. The Bible teaches that a high standard of proof is necessary before we can treat someone as guilty (Deut. 19:15).
  3. A better way to say this would be: All claims of abuse must be taken seriously. When hearing an allegation of abuse, we should immediately offer compassionate care, ensuring that the threatened party is safe. Allegations need to be investigated, in many cases by the civil authorities (Romans 13:1-7); however, it is not biblical to treat the accused party as guilty without proof.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4. ESV)


[1] Because most cases of abuse involve women I will refer to the victim as being female. I acknowledge that men can also be victims of spousal abuse and have counseled men in such situations.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Single Woman: Marriage Is Not Life’s Purpose

singlesSingle woman, here’s encouragement for you: Marriage is not the purpose of life. Whether you’ve never married, are divorced, or are a widow, you can honor God through singleness. This reassuring article by Lilly Park, a Crossroads Bible College professor, appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.

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How do we talk about singleness in a way that honors God and values all stages of life? A person might be single, because of never marrying, being divorced, or being widowed.

Sometimes the church and Christian colleges give the impression that marriage is the goal of life. This is disconcerting, because it could instill an idolatrous view of marriage and the perception that life is incomplete without a spouse. Unintentionally, we discourage single adults who are trying to serve God well or might not be single by choice. Here are some biblical principles to frame our thinking about singleness and marriage.

Marriage Is Not the Purpose of Life

Marriage is good but not the purpose of life. If marriage is the goal of life, then Jesus and Paul didn’t live purposefully, which is far from the truth. It’s also interesting that marriage is not a reality in heaven (Matthew 22:30). Please know that I have a high view of marriage and believe it is a blessing from God.

Sometimes, however, I think we can exalt marriage as “the” goal of the Christian life. Once that goal is achieved, we might be tempted to forget God’s greater purpose for our lives and the meaning of life.

If marriage (or any other ideal) is our ultimate goal in life, then we are probably not living for God’s glory. For instance, I’ve met husbands and wives who seem more interested in pleasing their spouse or receiving their approval.

Singleness and Marriage Are Good

Both singleness and marriage are good (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). The single life is not an inferior status or a waiting zone for a more satisfying life. If we’re not careful, marriage becomes a form of self-actualization (“I’m complete”) that the Bible doesn’t support. When marriage becomes the highest desire, our lives revolve around getting married.

“If only I was more thin, successful, or funny.” It never ends.

Marriage is not our identity. Yes, it often changes the last name for women and adds new roles and responsibilities for both spouses, but marriage doesn’t change our fundamental being as children of God. It doesn’t change who we are as people. We’re also not less worthy as a Christian if we’re divorced.

Single or Married, You Are Created to Glorify God

God created us to glorify him, whether single or married. The Bible focuses more on our relationship with God than on human relationships (Matthew 22:37-40). God didn’t redeem us for the purpose of earthly marriage, but marriage is a part of God’s plan for most individuals.

How one glorifies God will look different as a single or married person because of different priorities and responsibilities, but bearing fruit is not an option for a Christian (John 15:8). With this understanding, we are exhorted to be faithful in following Christ and becoming more like him (Colossians 2:6-7).

Marriage Is Not About You

Marriage is not about me but God’s glory. That’s why marriage is not the solution for loneliness, discontentment, or instability. Discontentment is a spiritual problem, not a lack-of-spouse problem.

It basically says to God, “My way, my timing!” If a person is discontent as a single, he or she will find something else to be discontent about as a married person.

“I want a bigger house.”

“I want a child.”

“I want more respect.”

“I want more love.”

Getting married is not difficult, but marrying God’s way is a conviction. It includes no “missionary dating” (2 Corinthians 6:14) or shortcuts. A person’s salvation and relationship with God are essential conversations for a budding relationships; so is spending quality time together and in groups. Also, it helps to think about how the relationship displays belief in God. Does the interaction stand out because Christlikeness is evident? How does the relationship with God affect the relationship?

Single or Married, Live for God

Single or married, let’s make the most of our days in living for God. I’ve been inspired by both single and married individuals. For example, I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of William Wilberforce and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (both married at a later age), of John Stott and so many others who live purposefully. On the other hand, I sometimes meet single women who plan to start serving the church or pursue some passion after marriage.

Why not now?

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

No Sexual Desire for Your Husband?

sexual desire
Sexual desire: Did you know there are reasons why a wife
sometimes — or often — has next-to-no sexual desire for her husband? And there are gospel-centered solutions too. In this insightful post by Heart2Heart Counselor Julie Ganschow appeared first here on here website and is used with permisison.

In this article, we’ll consider physical reasons and spiritual reasons for lack of sexual desire.

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Ware is the real reason a woman has no desire for her husband?

In biblical counseling we believe that often the surface problem is only a symptom of a deeper heart level problem. My goal would be to determine what in the heart (thought, belief, desire, will, attitude, emotion) needs to be changed for the symptom (lack of sexual desire for her husband) to be relieved.

Physical Reasons for Lack of Sexual Desire

However, there are numerous things that can contribute to the lack of desire in a woman.

First a medical check up is always in order. Women’s bodies are complex by design. Throughout our lives our hormonal levels adjust. Our monthly cycles bring times of more or less intense sexual desire. Fear of pregnancy makes women want to run away from sex, pregnancy, and post-partum hormonal changes bring physical and emotional changes with increasing hormones. Perimenopause and menopause also bring their share of symptoms as hormones begin to decrease.

I also believe the use of many chemicals in our food and the relatively poor nutritional value our foods also may influence our hormonal balances. Getting a good overall physical exam including blood work may rule out endocrine problems such as diabetes and thyroid problems. Also a measure of estrogen and progesterone may help determine if there is a true physiological cause to a lack of interest or desire in sex.

The rule of good biblical counseling is to look at a physiological cause first when it can be objectively and scientifically proven one exists. When a physical cause is not the problem, the only remaining option is that it is a spiritual problem.

Spiritual Reason for a Lack of Sexual Desire

In this day of blatant immorality, it is unfortunately unusual that the couple enters into marriage sexually pure. When my eldest son married, a part of the marriage ceremony was to celebrate their purity through the exchange of the purity rings they each wore since entering their teen years. They exchanged the rings with each other to signify that they had saved themselves for each other in marriage.

By maintaining purity they have saved themselves from one aspect of sexual difficulty in marriage. While I have not been able to find a term for this in any book on sex I have read I believe there is for the woman something I call “sexual guilt.” Sexual guilt seems to be a result of engaging in sexual contact prior to marriage, even if the only prior partner is now her husband.

In my years of counseling women I have seen this numerous times. A woman who has been sexually active prior to marriage may struggle greatly with sexual desire after marriage.

Stories of Women and Low Sexual Desire

Case studies of women with a struggle similar to yours may give you hope and a sense that you are not alone. Below, these ‘counselee’ representations are fictitious and do not represent any one person living or dead or their actual case histories or personal stories. But they may resonate with you.

Great Sex Before Marriage

sexual desireFran says, “While I really enjoyed sex before we were married I knew deep down it was wrong. I thought it was ok, because we really loved each other and planned to marry anyway.

“I thought about how great it would be not to have to sneak around anymore, not to fear getting caught. I couldn’t wait to be free of the guilt I felt at all the sneaking around. When we married I carried these thoughts into our marriage, but what was once fun and exciting was now very unappealing to me. I was just not interested anymore. I felt dirty and like my husband was always pawing at me wanting to get me into bed.”

“Sex became a chore and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

Betty says, “It never bothered me that we had sex before marriage. I was in love with him and we were going to be married. Once the marriage vows were said I lost all interest in him. I would rather go to bed with a good book. I don’t want to be touched. Once and a while I give in but I really would be fine if we never had sex again.”

The Wedding Night Was a Disaster

Jenny says, “I always knew it was wrong, but I let him talk me into it.

“I was raised a Christian and so was he. We had sex for months before our wedding, and I begged him to stop as a wedding present to me for the two weeks prior to our wedding. He reluctantly consented.

“Our wedding night was a disaster for me. I had no joy or anticipation for the event of our becoming husband and wife in the physical sense. It felt like there was nothing special about it at all. After he was asleep I went and cried in the bathroom for hours. I thought, ‘is this all there is now?’

“I dread sex now. I change in the bathroom or sneak to bed ahead of him because I don’t want to give him any opportunity to become aroused or to have to tell him ‘no’ again.

“He gets so mad at me when I tell him I am not in the mood, and it has begun to affect our marriage. I am so angry at him for making me have sex when I don’t want to! He is selfish and is only thinking about himself. He says he needs it, and I don’t believe him. I am fine without it, why can’t he be?”

In summary, when a woman is involved in sexual immorality, it affects her thinking. God tells us in His Word that all our sin has consequences. While nothing will change the believer’s position in Christ before God, all sin carries the inescapable weight of consequences.

Resources for You

EXCELLENT BOOK: Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters is insightful and encouraging as well as challenging–in a good way.

THOUGHT JOURNAL: This quick and easy download provides a step-by-step method to identifying destructive thoughts and redeeeming them with God-honoring thoughts that change the tragectory of your life. Get the Thought Journal now.

COUNSELING: Isn’t God calling you to enjoy the gift of sex in your marriage? Check out biblical counseling for married women. Learn more here.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

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