A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

We Need to Stop Telling Abuse Victims What To Do

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


Romans 14:4-5 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (5) One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

When a victim of abuse comes to us, it is very easy for us to launch into a “fix-it” mode and start telling her what she should do.  We need to stop doing this, and for several reasons:

  • She has been told what to think and what to do by her abuser, probably for a long time.  Now it is time that she is allowed to think on her own.
  • We inevitably view her situation far too simplistically when we respond with “shoulds.”
  • We really don’t know what is best for her in her particular situation.

Of course this does not mean that we don’t tell her anything.  There are basics, depending upon where she is at in her realization of what is happening to her, that we can and should tell her such as what the signs are of a life-threatening situation.  But providing her with information is far different than telling her what she should or should not do.

You probably already know that Christians and pastors and churches (people like me, Jeff) readily start dumping what we are convinced is God’s Word to her.  Divorce is never permitted.  You need to submit to him.  You should forgive him if he is sorry.  And on and on.  In fact, what we need to do is (assuming we really know what we are talking about, which few of us really do) provide her with information, help, safety, and so on.

In my opinion (and I am pretty sure I’m right!), we tell people what they must do far too often.  Understand, I am not promoting some kind of “sin as much as you want” and we will never, never judge you scenario.  Of course not.  What I am concerned with however are issues of life that really are matters of one’s conscience.  We regularly elevate such matters into the category of sin/not sin.  Right or wrong.  Holy or unholy.  The issue of divorce and remarriage is an example.  Really, what right do we as Christians or pastors have to dictate to a victim of abuse whether or not she can divorce her abuser?  Unless we actually believe (and unfortunately, some do) that divorce is NEVER permitted for abuse, then what in the world are we doing dictating to her what to do?  The truth is, she has the right to decide.  Our job is to provide her with information and counsel about abuse, about abusers, about what is really happening to her and what its effects are on her and her children.  But she is the one, in the end, who has to decide to stay or divorce, and she is the one who has to live with her decision.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  That is God’s word on the matter.


  1. There are probably two things a person should say to every abuse victim. “What’s happening to you isn’t right” and “Do you have a place to go if things get ugly?”

    Followed hard on by, “Here’s my number. I’ll help you find a place to stay if things progress.”

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Excellent! Yes, exactly right. Unfortunately we have to admit that victims more often get the correct advice when they go to a women’s shelter than when they go to their church. As Christians, we are too often in the mode of preaching. Preaching is good, in the right place AND when the preacher knows what he is talking about!

  3. ssofdv

    Excellent! No one can tell you when you’ve had enough. This is a decision that the abused, and only the abused can make. I have found that the more you “tell the abused what to do” the longer they stay. As you have stated, they have to figure things out on their own. One size does not fit all. I applaud your work.


  4. annawood
  5. KingsDaughter

    Good Word! This is so true and you nailed why!

    • “She has been told what to think and what to do by her abuser, probably for a long time. Now it is time that she is allowed to think on her own.
    • We inevitably view her situation far too simplistically when we respond with “shoulds.”
    • We really don’t know what is best for her in her particular situation.”

    Good advice or bad, there is nothing I run from more than an overly enthusiastic advisor!
    A victim is not in the situation because they are not smart and certainly they have learned to become quite sensitive to read people.
    Makes me think of a scared kitten, jump at them with a big, happy, well-intentioned hello and you will never get them out from under the bed again!
    Not that I believe we should manipulate behavior to get the response we want, but a sensitive, gentle, honest approach is much better received, it lets the victim know that you are more concerned for them than promoting your own agenda (or even projecting your own hurts/experiences on them).
    Yep, the last thing an abuse victim wants is to be controlled, again!
    Honest care and concern with objective information is the greatest help!
    Thanks for doing that!

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: