A Cry For Justice

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

How Christians evade the question of domestic abuse – the example of Glenda Hotton

On Sat, Jun 23, I emailed Glenda Hotton, the author of the book Help: I can’t submit to my husband!

Hello Glenda
What advice do you have for a woman who is being abused by her husband?
He blames her all the time, but it’s him who is being cruel and controlling.
Thanks,  Barbara Roberts

she replied on 23/06/2012:

Good morning Barbara. I sense you are seeking material for your book. I need more information to accurately answer your question. According to your bio/blog you are an Author and obviously have been a victim of domestic abuse and now are using your experience to help others. My values and beliefs would never support abuse in any form. There are many venues of help for the abused person. I hope you find what you are looking for.  Glenda Hotton MFT CDS Professor and Author.

I wrote back on 28 June:

Dear Glenda –  No, I wasn’t seeking material for my book, but I might write about your work at the blog Crying Out For Justice.
Telling me that you wouldn’t support abuse in any form is really not telling me much.

I didn’t ask you whether you would support abuse in any form, I asked you what advice you would have for a woman who was being abused by her husband:– where he blames her all the time, but it is him who is being cruel and controlling.

Since you have told me: “There are many venues of help for the abused person,”  I would like to know which venues of help you would recommend. And please keep you answer specific to a woman who is being abused by her husband, don’t obfuscate by using non-gendered nouns. Could you please tell me what books, websites, venues, or other resources that you would recommend for a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse?
thanks,  Barbara Roberts

So far, I’ve received no reply from Glenda. I hope she gets back to me, but I’m not holding my breath.

19 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  2. Maybe it’s the “obfuscate” that got her. Seriously tho, sad she didn’t respond. We work so much better for the kingdom when we are unified.

    • You know, Morven, I used the word ‘obfuscate’ very deliberately. She is the author of a book for women who “can’t submit to their husbands”. She clearly thinks she has something specific to say to women. But when I asked her advice for a woman being abused by her husband, she resorted to the non-gendered term “abused person”. I noticed that. She meant it. She was being obfuscating, and I called her on it. If she didn’t like it, then she only has herself to blame for using that evasive language in the first place.

      She might also have used the term ‘abused persons’ because she buys into the myth that there are just as many men abused by wives, as wives abused by husbands. That’s a myth that some in the complementarian camp hold to. That’s a whole other story.

      And readers here know that Jeff and I recognise that some men are abused by their wives, but we don’t believe there are nearly as many male victims as female victims.

  3. I also want to say that if Glenda Hotton responds to me in a way I find wholehearted and satisfactory, I will remove this post from public view. Like Morven, I believe we work so much better for the kingdom when we are unified.

  4. Her silence speaks volumes- It speaks of disregard, callousness, disinterest, unbelief and complete lack of compassion and respect. She should be ashamed.

  5. Belle

    I had never heard of her, but I just read her biography on her blog. I know other women that are perhaps like her. Woman who are kindhearted and godly, and who are married to good men. They don’t see the “other side of the tracks.” They have never witnessed abuse up close or experienced abuse. They look at their marriage and see their lack of respect or submission and begin to follow God and reap the blessings.

    These woman look so good in the church. They have a well ordered home with happy children and they reach out so much to others. Yes, it is due to their hard work and the blessing of God. BUT they have a husband who is emotionally behind them and loving and picks up some of the burden of work at home. The abused woman carries much of the load herself and also the load of the abuse. She has to spend time with all the emotional stuff from the abuser. She has to contend with constant discouraging criticism and blaming and anger directed at her while she carries the load of house and children alone. She works against the influence of abuser in the lives in the children.

    So, who teaches the ladies’ study and writes to women? It’s woman A who can do that. And she often doesn’t understand that woman B, the abused woman, exists. She thinks every husband is like hers. She just doesn’t know. I hope Glenda will open her eyes to the other side of the tracks as well as other woman teachers.

  6. Thank you, Jodi and Belle. Yes, I had a ‘Woman A’ give me advice when I left my first husband . She said “Don’t say anything when he’s carrying on a bit. But later on, go to him and talk to him about what he did/said, and explain your feelings.” I was too stunned to answer her at the time, but it was clear that she was married to a normal man and I was not, so she had no idea what my marriage was like.

    I’d tried the kind of thing she was recommending, time after time, with no positive outcome. In fact, whenever I tried to explain to him, he would use my explanation as material with which to further abuse me. Here are a few of his tactics: Blocking. Tangential Diversion. The Rolled Eyes. Inverting my complaint and turning it back onto me. Ridicule. Sarcasm. Stand-over tactics. The Silent Treatment. Bringing up past ‘misdeeds’ of mine. Barking orders at me. Twists and contortions of ‘logic’ that were impossible to follow and would leave me breathless and unable to think. etc, etc.

  7. KayE

    I know that it’s a common and frustrating occurrence for Christian writers to fail to address the problem of abuse, but I don’t think it’s wise or right to dismiss someone on the basis of a couple of emails. Wouldn’t it be better to find out the reasons for this neglect rather than just speculating?

    • Dear KayE, I know I can be pretty forthright, and my style might be too sharp for some people’s tastes. If I’ve upset or distressed you, I’m sorry. But can you please tell me how I have dismissed Glenda Hotton in what I’ve said?
      I have certainly exposed the contents of the correspondence between us, and I have called her response “evasive” but how have I actually dismissed her?

      You asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to find out the reasons for this neglect rather than just speculating?” Maybe it would, but how could I find out such reasons, when she does not reply to me? In my experience, when I’ve attempted to probe a person’s initial (inadequate) response to an inquiry like this, they increase their evasiveness, or just clam up all together and don’t answer my polite but gently persevering replies. I have on many occasions over the years, tried to engage in similar types of correspondence with various authors, and the evasiveness and clamming up are very common with authors who purport to have some expertise in teaching the doctrine of wifely submission in marriage. Thankfully, such evasiveness and clamming up is not universal, but it is quite common. (See our page What Headship and Submission Do Not Mean, for some examples of authors who are doing more nuanced work, and are willing to tackle the tough issue of marital abuse.)

      I have called Glenda Hotton’s response ‘evasive’. I believe this type of evasive response (with variations in wording, style, timing, etc.) is often given when a victim of domestic abuse makes a legitimate inquiry for guidance on the issue of domestic abuse from a Christian teacher. I made my initial inquiry to Mrs Hotton not to trap her, nor with any plan aforethought that I would blog about her answer and expose it to the public. I asked her that question because I was genuinely interested in her response. I would hope that anyone who writes a book titled Help: I can’t submit to my husband! would have a jolly good answer to the question I posed, since many women would be buying her book because they are in abusive marriages. although they may not realize they are being abused.

      I only decided to blog about Glenda’s answer, when I saw what her answer was. And I wrote the post as a case study to help others. I believe many of our readers who have been through domestic abuse have experienced these kinds of evasive brush-offs when they’ve tried to seek help from Christian teachers and authors. I wanted to help and validate survivors who have experienced this kind of subtle brush-off themselves in their own help-seeking journeys. Help them realize they are not alone. Help them sharpen their antennae to be able to detect such brush-offs in the future. Sorry if I’ve gone on too long with this comment.

      • KayE

        Barbara-I’m not at all upset or distressed by your comments. I wasn’t referring so much to what you said yourself, but to the general direction the comments seemed to be heading. I agree that your own comments weren’t dismissive. I absolutely agree that it is a good thing to challenge Christian authors and teachers and I admire you for doing this. I’ve certainly received plenty of evasive brush-offs myself. I’ve also been completely rejected by most of my local Christian community because of their refusal to acknowledge family violence as real, and their preference for my deceitful husband.
        It’s just that I’m not sure who the real enemies are- some of these people seem willfully arrogant and others well-meaning but misguided. I wish I could tell the difference.

      • Thanks for your response KayE. I agree: it is “hard to tell who the real enemies are – some of these people seem willfully arrogant and others well-meaning but misguided. I wish I could tell the difference.” I, too, wish I could tell the difference between the well-meaning but misguided types (I’ll call these WM’s), and the willfully arrogant types (WA’s) .
        If we could tell the difference, I guess we might be able to respond to each type differently. Sometimes, if we engage with people in and polite but probing conversation, we can get an idea whether they are WM’s or WA’s. But there are probably also overlaps between the two types. In particular, I believe that some of the WM’s have been recruited by the WA abusers who are separated dads. Fathers’ Rights groups seem to have won sympathy from certain hyper-submission women leaders in the complementarian para-church scene. If that’s the case, you have WM’s becoming spokespeople for the WA’s. Yes, they are still WM’s but they have been taken captive just like the Galatians were taken captive.

  8. movedbyfaith

    Barbara, I can’t agree with you more. It irritates me to no end when Christians continue to brush under the rug or deflect what IS happening to women, many of which are Christian women, or even worse women in search of Christ. Oh how my heart breaks when the hands and feet of Christ don’t address the effects of abuse. James 3:1 suggests that those who teach will be judged more strictly. Luke 12:48 A stricter divine judgement, much will be required of everyone who has been given much. Being an author of a topic about submission to a husband, most definitely puts yourself in a position of “teacher”. Such a position allows for others to question and inquire about viewpoints within the realm of which you are speaking. A generic answer doesn’t suffice a legitimate concern. Thank you for being a voice for all of us affected by abuse Barbara, you are the best!!

    KayE – I don’t know if its any more of a common occurrence for Christian writers to fail to address the problems of abuse as much as it is for the Christian community as a whole. The power of the words “Domestic Violence” has quite a frightening affect among believers. Glenda’s words seem carefully chosen to simply brush under the rug the topic that Barbara is looking to address. Just another situation where the abused or an advocate of the abused is brushed off yet again.

    -Emma

    • KayE

      I agree that using terms like “Domestic Violence” has an alarming effect on many Christians.They get defensive or judgemental or just give the message that you should not ever talk about such a thing.Sadly I do think it is a failing of the whole Christian community.

  9. Anonymous

    In some ways victims of abuse would have received subtle dismissive attitudes many times over their lifespan of abuse, in particular if they were also exposed to abusive conditions in childhood. We eventually accept covert forms of verbal abuse, even though deep down we know that there is an effect on us and it is one that feels abusive.

    That’s not to say that authors like Glenda are deliberate in their dismissal of victims. I like that distinction – Willfully Arrogant (WA) and Well-meaning but Misguided (WM). The effect is the same, though. We don’t need to deny that, and we don’t need to accept that dismissal. Avoiding the question, even if it is done politely, is in effect, not listening to the concerns of victims and saying that their concerns don’t deserve consideration.

    A book with a title “Help: I can’t submit to my husband!” needs to be clear in its position on domestic violence. To do otherwise is to be irresponsible.

  10. Barbara, I think you’re right to ask Glenda what her position is. She’s written a book with a pretty provocative title and, as Anonymous says, she does need to state her position on domestic violence. Otherwise she risks minimising a woman’s position in an abusive relationship. Also, I think you’re right to point out that her use of ‘abused person’ is totally misleading. Ninety-eight per cent of domestic/family violence is perpetrated by a male against a woman. It’s a gendered crime, and it’s not accurate for anyone to suggest that males are equally at the receiving end of domestic violence.

  11. Hey Barbara,

    I do hope Glenda Hotton gives you a reply. I was curious about the book so I looked for it online and found an excerpt. The little I was able to read caused a few questions of my own. Here is the link to the excerpt at Christianbook.com-

    http://www.christianbook.com/help-cant-submit-to-my-husband/glenda-hotton/9781846253218/pd/253218?event=82680SBF|31669|82680

    click on additional views and you can read pages 9-13. She gives 4 true scenarios involving abuse in marriage. You have to buy the book to find out what her advice is, but I got a hint on page 12…unless I am reading too much into it. She says these accounts are challenging to the wives involved; that even in the best of marriages it is against our nature to submit, and that “It is our frail, fragile, and depraved nature to want to control our lives and be accountable to no one.”

    Is she saying we are sinning if one wishes to control one’s life if living with an abusive spouse? Sounds like it to me. Is she also saying a born again Christian has a frail and depraved nature? Vague comments like that do not help at all.

    She then quotes John 10:10 and, although she correctly states that verse does not mean a carefree and happy life free from negative circumstances, she does state it means “a life of overcoming temptations and trials with the strength and wisdom that Jesus gives.” We are to be full of joy. ??? While it is true the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome temptations and the like, I believe John 10:10 is referring to eternal life…that is the blessed abundant life Jesus brings. The thief (false shepherds) come to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep–Jesus saves the sheep giving them life eternal. I am getting a major hint that we are to be overcomers regarding abuse. If we are not being overcomers, we need more wisdom/strength from Jesus. ??? Is she really relating this to abuse?

    She mentions it is grievous when a woman reaches the point in her marriage when she FEELS she cannot or will not submit to a harsh or thoughtless man. She says “this is not the abundant life Jesus brings.” Interesting choice of word-feels.

    Someone as abusive as the husband in her example with Judy–the “Christian” husband threatening her life–does she view this behavior as merely harsh? Or thoughtless?

    I get hints with these statments in her book the solution is going be all about me (the wife)….although I cannot know for certain unless I read the book. It would not be a book I would buy nor read, one reason being the strange use of John 10:10.

    • Thanks Diane, you’ve done some great research there. I completely agree with the comments you’ve made. I’ll probably get a chance to eyeball the book myself in the next couple of weeks at a conference I’m presenting at in Sydney, where there will be a book table by a retailer whose color catalog promoting Hotton’s book was the thing that first caught my eye on and piqued my curiosity on this whole topic. (Retailers beware! – your sales catalogs might deter buyers as well as attract them!)
      I might even buy a copy for myself, to critique it in more depth. But it sounds to me like your bit of research has detected the drift of it pretty well already. It usually doesn’t take much to catch the drift of this kind of stuff. Key words and phrases give them away; and key omissions.
      I just went to the link you gave and read those preview pages for myself. Her examples of different women have many of the key hallmarks that at least three and possibly four of those five wives are married to abusers. Classic abusers. So Hotton is clearly aiming her book at an audience that consists of many abused women. And she states she’s counseled hundreds of abused women. That makes her all the more responsible for giving the right advice. Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. James 3:1 NLT

  12. I hate conflict but I do believe that when someone writes a book titled, Help! I Can’t Submit to my Husband, she’d better be ready and willing to fully address the issue of abuse on all levels clearly and with great enthusiasm. Those will be her readers– the women who *want* to submit but feel for some reason are unable, not those women with a relatively normal marriage who just don’t feel so inclined. The later will go looking for another book.

    The operative word here is, “Can’t.” She chose the word, she needs to own it. At least with Barbara calling her for evasiveness and posting it here, those out searching for reviews will see that there are those who are questioning her book and whether it will be helpful or harmful to the abused wife. From there, they can make up their own minds.

    And believe me, when Jeff’s book comes out, plenty of others will be doing the same dadgum thing.

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