- Role of Clergy
- How to Assist a Battered or Abused Victim
- What to Avoid
- How to Deal with Abusive Partners
In 1992, the U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, stated that domestic violence perpetrated by males accounted for more adult female emergency room visits than traffic accidents, muggings, and rapes combined and is the single greatest cause of injury to American women. He declared it a national health crisis.1
Sadly, religion is NOT a deterrent…there is just as much abuse (spousal, child and sexual abuse) in Christian homes as in non-Christian homes.
In addition, spiritual abuse is always a component of abusive behaviors in Christian homes and damages the abused person’s view of God.3 People with strong religious beliefs stay longer in abusive relationships because the reality of their abusive situation gets mixed up with their faith beliefs.2
Often survivors of domestic violence seek assistance and counsel from clergy and other spiritual leaders before turning elsewhere for help; clergy often play a critical role in helping survivors attain safety while maintaining and often strengthening their faith.
According to a task force on the religious community responding to domestic violence, “By sharing the unequivocal message that God never intends for any human being to be abused or oppressed by another, and by linking victims with community resources, clergy can support and strengthen the victim’s faith in a loving and just God. This conviction can serve as an important resource for victims as they undertake the journey from an abusive relationship to a life of peace.”4
Although one of the primary goals is to see victims/survivors free from abuse, on the road to recovery and healing as soon as possible, they are the ones who must decide when they are ready to take the steps necessary for change.
On average, a woman leaves her abuser seven times before she leaves the relationship permanently. The abuse always escalates when she attempts to leave and most women who are killed in domestic violence cases are killed after they have left the abuser.
The goals for intervention by clergy should include:
According to Eldrige and Still in Transforming Trauma, “Offenders are expert at manipulation of people in order to justify their abuse to themselves and to others, as well as to maintain control and protect secret wishes and plans.”5
1. The Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Policy, Journal of the American Medical Association 267 (1192): 3132.
2. Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark, 10/07/2006, “When Terror Strikes the Christian Home;” Keynote Address at the Awakening Conference, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
3. Johnson, K. When Faith is Used to Abuse Windy Hill Institute, 2004.
4. “A Message from the Boston Coalition Religious Community Task Force, in Responding to Domestic Violence: a Guide for Clergy and Laity,” Office of Attorney.
5. H. Eldrige and J. Still, “Apology and Forgiveness in the Context of the Cycles of Adult Male Sex Offenders Who Abuse Children,” in Transforming Trauma: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, ed. A. C. Salter (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1995) 153-54.
6. Tracy, Steven R. “Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence,” Priscilla Papers, Vol. 21, No. 2, Spring, 2007.
7. “Helping a Domestic Violence Victim,” by Focus Ministries.
1. Nancy A. Murphy, God’s Reconciling Love: A Pastor’s Handbook on Domestic Violence, Faith Trust Institute, 2003.
2. Marie M. Fortune, Keeping the Faith, Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse, Harper Collins Publishers, 1987.
3. Rev. Al Miles, Domestic Violence, What Every Pastor Needs to Know, Augsburg Fortress, 2000.