A Cry For Justice

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

Thursday Thought — What a Victim Can Expect in a Typical Evangelical Church

What a Victim Can Expect in a Typical Evangelical Church

  1.  Victim reports abuse to her pastor.
  2.  Pastor does not believe her claims, or at least believes they are greatly exaggerated.  After all, he “knows” her husband to be one of the finest Christian men he knows, a pillar of the church.
  3.  Pastor minimizes the severity of the abuse.  His goal is often, frankly, damage control (to himself and to his church).
  4.  Pastor indirectly (or not so indirectly!) implies that the victim needs to do better in her role as wife and mother and as a Christian.  He concludes that all such scenarios are a “50/50” blame sharing.
  5.  Pastor sends the victim home, back to the abuser, after praying with her and entrusting the problem to the Lord.
  6.  Pastor believes he has done his job.
  7.  Victim returns, reporting that nothing has changed.  She has tried harder and prayed, but the abuse has continued.
  8.  Pastor decides to do some counseling.  He says, “I will have a little talk with your husband” or “I am sure that all three of us can sit down and work this all out.”  Either of these routes only results in further and more intense abuse of the victim.  This counseling can go on for years!  (One victim reported that it dragged on for nine years in her case).
  9.  As time passes, the victim becomes the guilty party in the eyes of the pastor and others.  She is the one causing the commotion.  She is pressured by the pastor and others in the church to stop rebelling, to submit to her husband, and stop causing division in the church.
  10.  After more time passes, the victim separates from or divorces the abuser.  The church has refused to believe her, has persistently covered up the abuse, has failed to obey the law and report the abuse to the police; and has refused to exercise church discipline against the abuser.  Ironically, warnings of impending church discipline are often directed against the victim!
  11.  The final terrible injustice is that the victim is the one who must leave the church, while the abuser remains a member in good standing, having successfully duped the pastor and church into believing that his victim was the real problem.  One abuse victim (a man in this case) told me that he finally came to the awakening that “I know exactly what my church is going to do about my abuser: Nothing!”  He left while she remained a member in good standing, the daughter of a leading pastor in the denomination.

(An excerpt from Pastor Crippen’s book, A Cry for Justice [*Affiliate link], pp 21-22)

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

44 Comments

  1. jaime

    There are some situations where the church leadership declares the victim an unbeliever and end up “giving the abuser a clean slate” so to speak, because the one who left (the victim) must be the unbeliever.

    In my daughter’s situation, the church leaders asked her and her X if they would submit themselves to the guidance of the elders. The x said,”yes” and my daughter said “no”. The obvious impression at that point is that my daughter was rebellious and the x was submissive. That is how simplistically (wrongly) church leaders “judge” these complex abusive marriages and give support and affirmation to the abuser.

    • Jaime, I had somewhat similar treatment from my church when I left my first husband (actually he was put out of the house by the police when the protection order I had applied for was granted).
      Among other hurtful things the elders did and said to me, they asked me “Are you willing to be under our covering any more?”

      Huh? I was so flummoxed I can’t remember what I answered but it was some kind of No. What I should have said, in hindsight, was “Well, you are not covering me in the sense of providing any decent protection or spiritual, Bible-based guidance for me, so what is this covering that you speak of?”

    • Wayne Boyd

      The ridiculous assumption behind the “sub(mission) to the…elders” viewpoint is the elders really know what’s going on in the marriage and that they really understand how people tic. Ah, right!

  2. The X will always say what he thinks others want to hear. He has no intention of following through with a true repentance. But the church leaders will never see that he has fooled them. Good thing your daughter wasn’t fooled, by that point. Sometimes, it takes a while to get there. God put this blog in front of me and that’s when I got it….and left that ‘church’ in a hurry. Yes, I just recently got a letter for ‘church discipline’. What a crock of bull.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Throw it away.

  3. Lindsey

    The first time I read that (my current pastor’s wife showed it to me), I ended up bawling, it was as if it was written based on me!! I would go between being MAD that this was so prevalent (and so hidden), and relieved that I was NOT the only one in the world to be abused by a church. I was on the verge of being declared an unbeliever when I left the church. Because I DID leave, the elders ended up comforting my soon-to-be ex husband (even financially supported him), and the congregation considered me the bad guy. Never ceases to amaze me. His sins are accepted, even encouraged, while I was ostracized and shamed. I like to think I’m healed but forgiveness is an ongoing process with occasional backslides. Someday I hope to read that list ^ and not have such extreme emotions well up. 🙂

    • Barnabasintraining

      I like to think I’m healed but forgiveness is an ongoing process with occasional backslides. Someday I hope to read that list ^ and not have such extreme emotions well up. 🙂

      Lindsey, I hear you. And the thing didn’t even happen to me. :/ I was present through the whole entire thing though and I still get fuming mad if I don’t deliberately stop myself from considering it.

      You are by no means the only one dealt wrongly by the church. 😦 In my situation, no one ever came right out and said to the victim in so many words “you are not saved,” but it was implied it on several occasions. By contrast, the abuser was accepted as a brother.

      Yeah. I need to go do something else now. 😡

    • Lindsey, that same eldership I mentioned in my comment above gave my husband accommodation in their own homes, because he was ‘homeless’ after being put out of my house by the court order.

      • Lindsey

        barbara! That’s just amazing to me. It was the same for me, the church paid for his apartment after I got a restraining order. I was a stay at home mom, living according to the patriarchal thinking that it was pointless for a woman to have a degree, because her place is in the home, therefore, I started from scratch with a one and two year old to support. I thank God every day that I had parents who allowed me to come back home with my babies. I don’t know what would have happened to us otherwise! Thank you for helping bring it to light, I’m hoping that my occasional “shares” will help others realize there are resources and support out there. It was the most lonely and isolating experience EVER for me.

      • Good to hear your shares, Lindsey 🙂

    • Lindsey, in my experience, it is healing to let the tears flow. And to let the anger come up — so long as we don’t sin while expressing the anger. (Be angry and do not sin Eph.4:26 NKJ)

      Lundy Bancroft says that tears are a powerful key to healing from trauma.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Lindsey – Just remember this: Anyone who embraces evil, is evil themselves. They are the ones who are deceived and working evil. Of course you are going to have extreme emotions well up! You are Christ’s and this sin being committed by them should stir you. But, you are free and loved by God, no longer in bondage to abuse and lies, and that is just exactly the way our perfect God had that planned. : )

  4. His Banner Over Me Is Love

    Unfortunately this post is very true.
    My X always wants to be seen as the good guy so will always say the right things and tell people that he loves me and wants us back together – all of which is untrue. AND all of which the Pastor has believed, wheres as I come across as the one who is unforgiving and lacking in grace!
    The Pastor just cared about us staying together more than the state of our marriage. My daughter said something that summed it up – ‘Marriage is more than geography’.

    • Anonymous

      Pastors are passionate about saving. The only problem is that they target their salvation efforts at the marriage, not at your survival, sanity or safety. Save souls, stop saving marriages when souls are at stake!

    • IamMyBeloved's

      HBOM-I think that pastors want couples to stay together, no matter what, because they see it as a black mark on their “record” for any divorce to occur under their pastoral care; or they believe that God will hold them accountable for the divorce and they fear that, more than fearing God will hold them accountable for allowing a man to abuse his wife and kids. If they understood that domestic abuse is a form of slow murder, maybe they would change their minds.

  5. Forrest

    As we have seen all too clearly recently with the Meadows Catechism, the church itself may also be abusive.

  6. Forrest

    Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir.

  7. Denise

    What so many counselors and pastors don’t realize is that Christian women generally want to keep their nest intact. For a wife to come out of the shadows to get help is a clear indication of a problem, and that you can be 99.9% sure that there is no exaggeration of abuse. If anything she’ll try everything in her power to preserve the dignity of her family. It is a brave and desperate feat for her to confide in her pastor. She is needs to be believed, protected by valiant godly men that won’t default to cowardice and blame.

    • Classie

      So true. Took me 30 yrs to speak up and only when I was strong enough and God helped me overcome my fears, could I actually leave my home and children… I was going to lose my mind if I didn’t leave — or commit suicide… A year later. He is still a trustee at our church !

    • Lindsey

      Very true! I got to the point that I knew I had to leave with my babies, but I also felt like I had failed, especially when I was told that “it takes two to break a marriage” and I “needed to be more godly, and pray for him because he’s struggling.” Failed as a Christian, and failed at life! I know better now. But still recovering… 🙂

      • Becky

        Whenever someone tells me “it takes two to tango,” I immediately tell them, “No, it doesn’t. It just takes one abuser.”

      • And abuse is not like a tango. It’s not a mutual dance. It’s more like a spider trapping an insect and injecting venom into the insect whenever the insect tries to wriggle free from the sticky threads of the web.

      • Brenda R

        Barb, that was a good one and going in my list of replies. There is a spider in the bathroom here at work. We have watched him do that very thing. No one seems interested in getting rid of the little guy so we have named him Sneakers, as he runs behind the cabinet whenever he thinks someone is watching too closely.

  8. Teri

    A friend of mine hat to leave her abusive husband because he was breaking the law and refused to help support his children. I advised her not to report the situation to the pastors because I knew they would not be helpful. But I never imagined that they would demand that she withdraw divorce proceedings (even though her husband initiated the divorce) and kick her out of the church. Her husband remains in good standing.

    My friend was able to join another church, but I was so traumatized by watching what she went through that I dropped out of Protestant religion and went back to being Catholic.

    • Dear Teri, you might like to consider trying the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. They don’t seem to have such a bad track record as many other Protestant churches do on domestic abuse. And their communion service may be somewhat similar (in outward form, but not the spiritual understanding of it) to what you are used to in Catholicism. I won’t go into the diffs here between the spiritual understanding of the bread and wine, but you can look that up on the web easily.

  9. Anonymous

    Yep, you nailed it.

    Every week my t tells me I need to face the fact I’m not an evangelical and it’s time to find a new church.

    • Hey, Anon, I hope you are an evangelical — a true one. And true ones in this day and age seem to often have to gather and worship outside the camp. Did you know that Jeff C’s church services are webcast live and his sermons can be downloaded at any time? See here for more details:
      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/resources/sermons/

  10. Gary W

    We live in an age in which the priest and Levite on the road to Jericho are no longer content to simply pass by. For the metaphor to be relevant to modern church life, one must speak of “pastors” who do not merely ignore, but who heap blame on women who are worse than robbed, beaten, stripped and left half dead. One must speak of these “pastors” then taking up the cause of the perps.

    • Barnabasintraining

      For the metaphor to be relevant to modern church life, one must speak of “pastors” who do not merely ignore, but who heap blame on women who are worse than robbed, beaten, stripped and left half dead.

      You mean like, “Wonder what they did to deserve that?”

    • Gary, would you like to draft a guest post for us on the Jericho Road church? I was thinking of drafting one myself, but would be happy to let you do it. 🙂

      Base the post on the parable of the good Samaritan, but focus on the priest and the Levite, and show that the current incarnations of the priest and the Levite are not just passing the victim by, but are kicking her and blaming her (or him) while she is down in the dust.

      If you’re interested and do this, email it to me and Jeff.

      • what I mean, Gary, is make it a modern day parable; keep the parable format and genre.

  11. Janey

    I’m watching a situation where a woman is the abuser (probably NPD or BPD) and is spreading lies about her husband now that he has finally decided to divorce her. People are so used to women being the victim that they don’t go to the effort to get both sides. (Personally I’ve known 1 male abuse victim for every 8 female victims.)

    I know the couple quite well, far better than anyone at their church. The wife is very charming and gregarious on the surface. She can be very engaging and will draw you in, but she’s 100% selfish and a very convincing liar. It took me more than a year — hundreds of hours with her — to figure out her game. I cut ties.

    Now she’s managed to insinuate herself into the good graces of a loving, wealthy and naive couple who are taking her in. They are very proud of their kindness. Little do they know that she will lie to them too as soon as she’s either done with their services or thinks they are too stupid to notice.

    In this case, it looks as though the husband will have to leave the church in order to worship in peace — without stares of those who’ve been told he’s the problem. Very sad.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      It will be interesting to see if he gets excommunicated for leaving. We know here at ACFJ, that men are victims of abuse also, but not nearly as often as women. I think your rates may be a little high.

  12. IamMyBeloved's

    Exactly. You just forgot this one itty bitty thing.

    They (pastor and his wife) will take all of your personal counseling notes from their counseling sessions with you – including all the intimate details of abuse, no matter what kind – write them in their book of charges against you – adding their own written mocking side notes and comments about you – and then pass it all around on an I-Pad at a fellowship meal, email it around to everyone whether in that “c”hurch or not, tell other churches and drag them in on it, and eventually hang it on the walls of their church for anyone who enters to read your private intimate details of abuse – before they excommunicate you. They will do all of this, AFTER you have left their “c”hurch. They will drag you back and torture you and do exactly to you, as Jesus warned us they would do in John 16.

    • That’s not a church that’s a pit of vipers. 😦 Far too many of those these days 😦

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Yes Katy. I think everyone who knows the details of that mess agrees with you.

  13. Jayne

    Oh, yes! This rings so true! Sadly, patriarchal doctine can be a devestating, insidious trap for women. My x is still accepted at the church, and I (except from a few friends) am lookd at like the infidel, backslidden, and bound for hellfire and damnation. It is sad.

  14. anonymous

    Thank you for posting this. Just a small portion of truth from Pastor Crippen’s, A CRY FOR JUSTICE.

  15. Brenda R

    I think that about sums it all up. Be careful of what church you are a part of.

  16. StandsWithAFist

    My abuser is not my spouse, but my elderly MIL. She is evil, manipulative, devious, malicious, slandering, unrepentant, charming, religious, coy, fake, exploitative, duplicitous, divisive and cruel. She is the sweet little old “Christian Betty White” character who has everyone fooled except those she abuses. She has convinced her pastors, our family & friends that I/we are the unforgiving, grudge-holding sinners in need of counseling, while she continues to scapegoat, slander, gossip and abuse at will & without accountability. It is crazy-making.

    • healingInHim

      My MIL was the same and encouraged my passive-abusive husband to be who he was. As I am becoming more acquainted with ‘their friends’ … they are all the same – charming, fake, etc … and yes, there is much crazy-making.

  17. Finding Answers

    My abusive family of origin had allies in the ‘c’hurch.

    Whatever the ‘c’hurch’s “protocol” for divorce, there would have been no justice.

    I would certainly not have been believed.

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