Archives For domestic violence

destructivemarriage-650x220bPastors, counselors, and ministry leaders at all levels are often the first responders couples turn to when struggling in their marriages. Unfortunately, ministers are often overwhelmed and not well trained to discern when the issues they are drawn into are normal marital conflict or emotional abuse.

Leslie Vernick and Chris Moles joined us on April 2, 2014, for a heart-to-heart discussion about how the church and people of faith can begin to address the growing problem of emotionally destructive marriages. Leslie brought her 30 years of experience as a counselor and relationship coach to help people helpers better understand that they can help couples ensnared in emotionally destructive marriages.

Chris, himself a senior pastor, also serves as a Batterer Intervention Specialist who has ministered to over 200 men who have been convicted of some form of domestic violence. Chris shared his passion, experience, and wisdom shepherding his local flock as well as a group of abusers that most of society has written off.

Together Leslie and Chris offered a uniquely Christian perspective on how to see, understand, and confront the emotionally destructive patterns in those who are abused and those who abuse.

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the webinar, click the link: Shepherding the Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Shepherding the Emotionally Destructive Marriage PPT.

To get a free sample download from Leslie Vernick’s book, click the book title link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope. If you are interested in requesting a review copy of Leslie’s book, WaterBrook/Multnomah Press has graciously agreed to a free limited time offer of a review copy by clicking the following link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

As a special gift to you as a pastor, counselor, or ministry leader, Leslie would also like to offer a special gift, thanking you for attending this webinar. Leslie is making available an ebooklet of previously unpublished material focused on the church’s response to emotionally destructive marriages. Click on this link, The Church’s Response To Emotionally Destructive Marriages, to receive that free material. Leslie is also offering 2 free training DVD’s to help you in your work with couples in emotionally destructive marriages. You can receive these additional resources by clicking on: Training DVD’s.

For a free download of an RBC booklet by counselors Jeff Olson & Tim Jackson (one of our hosts) click the title link: When Violence Comes Home. Another booklet on verbal abuse by Jeff Olson is also available at: When Words Hurt. Herb Vander Lugt, one of RBC Ministries’ past research editors, wrote a booklet about God’s heart for women living in abusive relationships. Click here for his booklet: God’s Protection for Women.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you understand more about abuse and what can be done to stop it, click the link: Abuse.

Leaving is Love

Allison Stevens —  November 1, 2010 — 15 Comments

I’d like to share my perspective on abusive relationships.

If a wife is married to an abusive husband, she is not safe. If a marriage is categorized as abusive, it’s dangerous. There are not degrees of safety. That’s like saying that living in a cage with a lion has degrees of danger; it just matters how much the lion gnaws on your leg as to how dangerous it is. No, if you’re in that cage, you’re in harms way.

And the best option for her is to find a safe plan to leave. Sadly, by the numbers of women who’ve been murdered by their estranged husbands, this doesn’t guarantee safety. However, for the majority, leaving a precarious relationship can help a woman begin a new life of freedom and dignity that she had long forgotten.

We act as if we can give permission to abused spouses to leave their marriages only if it’s “really bad” and only if you do it out of a heart of love. I say, abuse is always really bad and love is always there whether you’re aware of it or not.  If a woman leaves a mean man, only for the reason that he’s mean, she is doing it for love; love for herself, her children, and maybe even a rudimentary love for her husband. Love isn’t always as evolved as we want it to be, but it’s love just the same. Leaving is love because she’s seeking dignity by doing so; hers and his.  

We’re missing a pivotal point if we put the burden on the abused spouse when we tell her that she shouldn’t separate because the abuse isn’t bad enough, or that her abusive husband is willing to go to counseling (most abusers are!). In an article I read that was referenced in the last blog, it said that in abusive relationships, “it is sometimes healthy and wise to separate.” (italics added) I wish it had read, “It is usually healthy and wise to separate.” We talk about abusive relationships as if we’re granting some sort of sanction to a small percentage of battered women that “well, mostly it’s good to stay in an abusive relationship, but there are times when it’s healthy to leave.”  What?  I think it’s just the opposite.  Mostly it’s appropriate to separate. I just wish we’d end the pressure we put on abused wives to keep putting up with the abuse.

I’m all for healing from abuse, healing for the abuser, and restoration in marriage! I believe in it and I know God changes hearts so that a husband and wife can live in freedom and with dignity. And I don’t think that what I’m saying contradicts the Jesus I know. God loves us and sent His only Son to die for us! Why would He want us to willingly live in abusive homes when we live in a country where freedom is there for anyone? I just don’t think the burden we put on abused spouses is right. Domestic violence is illegal and we’ve got to realize that the laws of our land regarding domestic violence align with Scripture about how we are to treat one another.

More on abuse

Allison Stevens —  July 12, 2010 — 14 Comments

I hope you don’t mind that I continue to blog a while about abusive marriages.  It’s just that after I read some of the responses, I wanted to say more.

First, thank you for sharing your stories. It’s so important that we have a safe place to talk about what is happening.

Many mothers worry about how a divorce will affect their children. It’s so important to know that living in an abusive home can be more damaging and hurtful to a child than living through a divorce, if the divorce protects the children as well.  Children are emotionally and psychologically hurt when they live in a home of domestic violence. If you pursue a divorce, find an attorney who will do all he or she can to also protect the children.

If you choose to try and work things out with an abusive spouse, please understand that you have chosen a long and difficult path.  Part of the difficulty is that an abuser may try to rush and jump through all the hoops just to get back into the home.  Often, he puts pressure on the abused wife to take him back. If he’s doing that, he’s not ready to come back home. Putting pressure on a spouse, no matter what it looks like, is manipulation and has been one of the ways he’s controlled you in the first place. He must get a grasp of what his manipulation looks like and why he’s doing it. Repentance means that he understands fully what he’s done, he’s broken up over it and he has a clear picture of the damage he’s done. Therefore, he will know how much work it’s going to take to rebuild your relationship and he won’t rush the process.

I see a lot of women feel obligated to take back a man who says he’s sorry. He cries and tells the pastor how sorry he is. He brings you flowers and tells you it will never happen again. You are not obligated to walk back into abuse. You and your children should feel safe in your own home. Without safety, you have no home; just four walls that can soon feel like a prison.

No one should make you feel that getting out of an abusive marriage is the wrong thing to do.

Many marriages have normal conflict. The spouses get along mostly, but there are times when they argue or disagree. And it can get pretty heated. Some may not speak to each other for days because they’re so upset.

But there is another kind of marriage that is really no marriage at all. It’s the abusive marriage. It’s wives living in fear of their angry, cruel husbands. It’s husbands fearing the tirade and abuse of their wives. It’s a living nightmare for the children.

It is a marriage where one person consistently uses a variety of means to control and instill fear in his or her spouse. The abuser hits, calls names, belittles, ignores, withholds affection or money, isolates, and is honestly a tyrant to live with. The abuser will use any means to bring down the other spouse. And the other spouse is truly afraid.

It’s so far removed from what God intended in the union between a man and a woman. There is no freedom, therefore no love. There is no respect, therefore no joy, peace; no feeling of being safe. The injured spouses feel trapped, alone, and terrified.  The shame for an oppressed spouse often is too much to bear, so he or she does everything to hide. His pain goes unnoticed. She suffers alone, silently.

Followers of Jesus can come along side and give comfort to the abused spouse.  We can help them get to safety. We can pray for the abuser to come to his or her senses. Abuse assaults our dignity and no one can tolerate it, nor should we.

A story of abuse

Allison Stevens —  November 16, 2009 — 12 Comments

hand over faceThis post reveals what it’s like living with an abusive spouse. It’s written from a wife’s perspective about what happened in her marriage with her battering husband.

I should have left the first time he hit me. But I was afraid. We had just gotten back from our honeymoon and I couldn’t bear the scrutiny or shame I’d feel if I left my husband so soon.  That would mean that I made a mistake. I wasn’t up for admitting that. I was so used to hiding and carrying my burdens alone that living with the abuse and keeping it secret seemed like my only option.

We were eating dinner one night, and we started to argue about something. I can’t remember what it was about.  It was something like where to spend Christmas or how we were spending money. He became very upset and angry, and then, it felt as if with all his might, he back-handed me across the face.

I was stunned. It felt like my front teeth were loose and maybe would fall out. You know how when you really hurt yourself, it takes a few seconds to feel the pain?  That’s what it was like.  At first, no pain, then the throbbing. I held my mouth, and I couldn’t move my hand. I couldn’t move at all. I realized I was almost hyperventiling. I was crying, and then I tasted blood. It hurt so bad. The physical pain was bad, but the hurt I felt in my heart was agonizing. The man I married, the one who was supposed to protect and love me, just hit me with all his strength.

Ice stopped the bleeding, but it didn’t do much to stop the bruising, nor the sick feeling I had in my stomach.

After a short while, he apologized.  He was strangely calm for being so upset a few minutes earlier. He tried to hug me and comfort me.  I felt completely numb, emotionally. I pretended to let him hug me, but really, there was no comfort. I knew then that I was in big trouble and I felt that I had absolutely no way out of this. I did all I could to cover the bruises with makeup. But a woman at work noticed and asked me about it. I made up some lame story to cover it up. I don’t think she believed me, though. But she didn’t say anymore about it.

And thus began a sick, perverted, twisted marriage. After that incident, he was nice for awhile, but then I could feel the tension rising again. And then he’d explode again. But even during the “good” times when he wasn’t hitting me, twisting my arm, or pulling my hair, he had his ways of putting me down. He preferred the name “stupid bitch” or laughing at me or my family. He loved making fun of my family.

It’s unthinkable to me now that I was more willing to suffer quietly on my own, bearing the weight of shame that was wrongly placed on me, than I was to go through the embarrassment of a separation or divorce. But through God’s grace and trusting in His love and believing that He wanted me to be safe, I was, with his help, able to get free from this abusive, oppressive relationship. I’ve learned so much about myself and my relationships. I can honestly say now that I’m thankful for all I’ve been through because it’s made me who I am today.  And I like who I am.

If you’ve experienced this kind of relationship, and you feel comfortable sharing a part of your story with us, please blog. We’d like to hear from you.


Allison Stevens —  October 19, 2009 — 4 Comments

Since I’ve written on headship and husbands, I guess it’s only fair that I write a little bit about submission and wives.  And I mean a very little bit. 

I’ve always thought that submission, like headship, is something for which we wives have been naturally equipped.  That submission can be an instinctual response when a wife is loved.  I think that a wife is attracted to her husband when he leads her family in a positive direction. If she’s married to a man who has her and her children’s best interests at heart, and they (husband and wife) are of one mind, it can be a natural response to submit.

I’m also living in reality and know that there are times when submission, just like headship, is hard to do. When you wonder if your husband (who has good intentions towards you) is really thinking things through and you’ve expressed your concerns, but he still wants to go ahead with something. I’m not talking about moral issues here; more like what kind of kitchen cabinets to choose, or even what school to send the children.  There are times when submission feels like the last thing in the world you want to do.

On some level, we’re all to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21.) And we all know, male and female, how challenging that can be.

Honestly, I think I know more about what submission is not than what it is. It is not subservience. It’s not mindless obedience. It is not avoiding conflict at all costs or passing up opportunities to share your opinion and/or concerns.

And a lack of submission is never the reason for spousal abuse, nor is it an effective response. If a wife, for example, continues to submit to an abusive husband, it can encourage his brutality and disregard for her. If you’re in an abusive marriage, get help so that you and your children can be safe (see your pastor, a trusted friend, a therapist, or call the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.)  You need to be safe.

Submission is a tricky subject because it’s been so mishandled and inappropriately applied to women who are beaten up (physically or emotionally) everyday by men they’ve promised their lives to. In these cases, submission is the wrong answer because in this scenario, a woman is responding out of fear, not love. Love is freedom; fear is a prison and if you know anyone who is abused, they feel like they’re in a prison, run by terror. That’s no way to live. If a woman confides in us that she is abused, we should do all we can within the law to make sure she is safe and treated with dignity and respect.