A Cry For Justice

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

Misconceptions about abusers are widespread in modern society — Lundy Bancroft DV in Popular Culture Part 1

From Lundy Bancroft’s lecture DV in Popular Culture:
I spent years and years and years of my life deeply steeped in dealing with abusers. I only had to meet with any particular guy two hours a week, yet I would find myself often thinking that I am going out of my mind after two hours around this guy — what would it be like to have to live with him under the same roof! 

Abusers sow confusion

One of the themes that kept going through my mind over the years I was working with abusers and has really driven my writing and training work about it, is confusion. And when I thought about today I found myself coming back over and over again to this theme of confusion. Abusers are very, very good at creating all kinds of confusion that makes them seem so different from what they are: making things seem the opposite of what they are, throwing up all kinds of smoke screens, making people spend a lot of time examining themselves — trying to figure out what’s wrong with them, making people spend a lot of time examining each other to figure out what’s wrong with other people — anything other than looking carefully at the abuser.

Communities end up contributing a lot to the confusion. Abusers end up finding a lot of support from many different places in his community and people who are able to back him up. And it’s not just like bad people. There are a lot of really good people, a lot of really well intention people — people who are really trying to do the right thing — who end up backing the abuser up in all kinds of ways.  And because of the ways the methodology and conception about abusers have gotten so widespread in modern society, almost everybody is to some extent subject to it.

Then the media, unfortunately, play a more problematic role than a helpful one. There are occasionally pieces of good information, and today we will look at some examples of good information. We are not only going to look at bad information, so we can think not only about how to criticize or protest the bad influence through the media, but also support and encourage people in media who are doing good work, who are doing positive education for the community. But the media is really a significant part of the problem. You may not be convinced of that now or you may already be convinced of that. I think that if you are not yet, you will be before you leave today — that the media is in many, many ways really in the way.

[Note inserted by Barb Roberts: The Australian media has made great strides in how it reports domestic abuse. There is still room for improvement but it’s a lot better than it used to be. And it is probably better than the American media.]

What kind of response a particular woman or a particular abuser gets at the workplace is going to depend to a great extent on what people in the workplace have come to believe — an underlying sense about domestic violence — about violence in intimate relationships. To the extent that people have come to believe the key myths and misconceptions about abuse, that woman is not likely to get the kind of support that she really needs. And the abuser is likely to be able to wrap people around his finger and get away with a lot.

Whereas, trying to move through an atmosphere where people really get the dynamics of domestic violence, really get how an abuser works, really get what an abused woman goes through and what her needs are, she starts to find herself in an atmosphere where she can really count on people to back her up and where she starts to feel stronger. And the abuser finds himself for the first time hitting walls.

Most abusers have years of practice at getting past everybody

My experience as an abuse counselor is that by the time the abuser gets into an abuser program he has so many years, often decades, of finding he can get past everybody that there is no situation he can’t find a way to work to his advantage. There’s nothing that he can’t find a way to explain, there’s nothing that he can’t actually flip so it becomes something to criticize the abused woman about. And we will look at specific examples from media that illustrate the whole process by which the victim is suddenly the one in whose behavior is being examined or even the one who might end up apologizing for the crime of being abused, the crime of having been beaten.

I have often had people say to me over the years, “That’s really something that you could work with abusers for all those years. I just really don’t think I could do that.” And they find it something kind of admirable.  And I say, “Well, why? What do you think is so hard about it or why don’t you think you could do it? “And they say, “Well, because I just don’t think I could have any sympathy or compassion for the abuser.”

Well, to me that is already the beginning point of the confusion that abusers have created because they have created the notion that they are owed sympathy and compassion. Why? They are not owed a drop of special sympathy and compassion for the fact that they beat women. Since when is that a category where you get special sympathy and compassion? During the years that I worked with abusers, if a client came in to the group with a broken leg I had sympathy and compassion for him about this broken leg. If he came in with a terrible cold I had sympathy and compassion for him about his cold. But I never had sympathy and compassion for him about being a woman abuser.

So that already becomes one of the first places where we start to get hooked in. Where we start to feel like we have to understand this guy, we have to understand what he’s going through, we have to figure out how to help him. And yet for most other categories of really destructive behavior, where people are really harming other people, we don’t immediately start to get drawn into, “Oh well, gee. Uh, this poor (guy). “ Our focus [when we run programs for perpetrators] tends to be on the people that they are harming and our focus tends to be on how can we make this person stop, and how do we impose some kind of consequences that might make them not want to do it again.

And yes, we also believe in offering services. I’m obviously a believer in offering services or I wouldn’t have done all those years of work with abusers. But I spent those years with abusers demanding that they change and I spent those years with abusers talking with them over and over again from a really outraged place of what I felt about what they had done: the kind of damage they were bring to the lives of so many women and the lives of so many children and the kind of damage they are doing to the lives of communities. Because abusers are having these vast effects on all kinds of things about our quality of life.


Text transcribed from Part 1 of Lundy Bancroft’s lecture Domestic Violence in Popular Culturesubheadings added by Barbara Roberts. The link takes you to point 6.34 in the lecture on YouTube, which is the place we started this transcription from.

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns. 


Related links:

Links to Lundy Bancrofts Youtube lecture  — Excellent

Manipulation, beliefs and media images:  The petrie dish in which domestic abuse grows

The Poison of Serpents is Under The Lips of the Abuser

Men’s Behavior Change work — a report from the No To Violence conference.



  1. Still Reforming

    What frustrates me ever increasingly is that I identified this to different congregants in my former church over the years. I told a few trusted friends, mostly women, about different things that happened in my home, and the responses I received ranged from, “At least you a husband who loves you” to “Your husband doesn’t want to hear from you. Set a guard over your mouth (Psalm 141:3)” to “Oh, my husband’s done that too” or “We’ll pray about it.” By the time I told two women that I was researching sociopathy in my husband (during a small prayer group time), they both smiled and nodded. And when I broke down in tears in front of the entire women’s group one evening, even showing them an armload of books about passive-aggressive (which I now know is covert aggression) that I took there, all the women laid hands on me and prayed for me, that God would let me know they’re there for me, but…. that was it. In the end, no one was there for me.

    The thing is – the church contributes to the confusion. Giving lip service to being sisters and brothers, patting victims on the back and saying “We’re here to help carry your burden” before they walk away.

    And that’s what’s making me more angry with each day. These are people who heard the truth and chose the low road, the easy path, the way that causes the least disruption to their own lives.

    Sorry – maybe I went off-topic there. It’s just that I identified the confusing behavior of my husband to so many different church women over the course of years to the point that one finally asked me, “Is he on drugs?” because his behavior was so…. baffling. Later she asked if he could possibly be bipolar. She knows that he’s neither, and yet…. he’s still at that church. The pastor even knew the most truth behind all of it, and yet…. Sigh.

    Sorry, I’m singing to the choir here. It just angers me that I was a whistle-blower throughout the years, and I suspect it’s only resulted in my appearing to be the “confused one” in their eyes.

    • Valerie

      I feel your pain. 😦 My experience was the same. It feels dishearteningly similar to the abuser’s tactic of plausible deniability. They say just enough godly words so they can walk away feeling they’ve been there for you without really having done anything at all (most times) except isolate you further. They can tell their friends they “prayed for you” while shaking their heads about your situation as though the sorriest thing about your situation is how in denial you are by calling it abuse. Much of the time the “compassion” felt more like condescension.

      When I think of the lack of discernment so many of these people exercise I have this visual of them making home made dog biscuits for the pit bull next door. They smile as the oven timer goes off thinking about what a good deed they are doing without realizing that the recipient of their kindness is ready to take their hand off.

      • healinginhim

        Valerie – What an excellent analogy concerning the ‘dog biscuits’. I wish I could share more but can’t. I am experiencing this “big time”.

  2. KayE

    Most people don’t get what an abuser is really like until they get hurt by the abuser themselves. Then they suddenly understand. Now that my ex’s destructive behavior has downgraded the neighbors’ quality of life and property values, people are seeing things in a new light. If they had got involved sooner, they might have been able to better protect themselves, and possibly they realize that now. People need to see that abuse isn’t a victim’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem.
    Of course those self-righteous and proud pharisees who have allied themselves with evil and cheer on the abuser will never be able to see anything. They are every bit as bad as the abuser and should also carry that label.

  3. healinginhim

    “Communities end up contributing a lot to the confusion. Abusers end up finding a lot of support from many different places in his community and people who are able to back him up.”
    They may be quiet and keep a well-kept yard, too. The neighbours can’t see anything wrong … I’m the goat for being “too religious”. So much more I could say but I better stop.
    STILL REFORMING – don’t apologize for your anger. I too, have had the most humiliating responses from the ‘churched women’.
    KayE – “Most people don’t get what an abuser is really like until they get hurt by the abuser themselves.” Yep … and it will only be a matter of time before they figure out that this quiet man cares only for himself and other abusive family members and friends. Eventually these abusers may turn on one another… it’s a matter of survival of the fittest when you don’t allow God to be on the Throne.

  4. loves6

    We had the Eph5 sermon at church today… I just about walked out but would have made a public spectacle of myself if I did. I found it so hard to listen to.
    Wives must submit. . Husbands are the head but aren’t supposed to rule. Husbands are to submit to Christ and treat their wives as Christ treats the church. My husband is being oh so nice today… I’m so angry .. I hate the syrupy pathetic man he has become.. manipulation to the core. It’s like he is in denial that I’m on my way out the door. Will be very soon.. just got a few.more things to sort out.
    I havr now found my anger .. thank God .. listening to Lundy Bancrofts video yesterday has stirred me. One thing he said was in regards to religion. .. the two shall become one flesh … Lundy said … yes the abuser thinks his flesh… (As in the wife is one flesh in him) good point. The father of my kids thinks he owns me and always has. One of the biggest regrets I have in life is going to the strict church we went to after we were married … it fed abuse in our marriage and crushed me. I am so angry with myself for being so gullible and falling for it hook line and sinker. Not thinking for myself and believing everything I was told

    Lundy Bancroft has opened my eyes to more things that are driving me out the door !!!!

    • Loves6, I am glad you are angry. Anger energises us; it’s a furnace which provides power to move, like a steam engine provided power back in the days of steamp-driven locomotives.

      Hugs from Barb

      • loves6

        I left today Barb … I have peace but I know a war is about to begin

      • Praise God! I shall keep up my prayers. Yes the war is about to begin, and you may not be able to prevent all the enemy’s tactics, but you have the knowledge to cast out the lies and false accusations from your abuser and his allies from your mind.

  5. Anotheranon

    Praying for you Loves6. Stay strong.

  6. Pal

    After stumbling on to this website (can’t remember how really) I couldn’t stop reading these terrible stories. Rage, disgust, pity are just some of the words to describe what I feel for these poor fellow believers who are so afflicted. Just to let you know I dug into this a bit. I listened to Pastor Crippens 14 part series on “What does evil look like?”, bought two of Dr. Simons books for my daughter and listen and read the links posted here. Even if detractors would claim that 90% of what is written here are lies or exaggerations I would still say that the remaining 10% is 100% too much.

    After leaving the USA in 1971 I have not really been in to the church scene there. If what had happened in the churches that are described on this blog had happened in my present country the press would have held a field day. It’s difficult to understand this mind-set that a group of people in a local church who are truly out of their depth are permitted and sanctified in their own eyes to take on these kind of problems.

    Naturally those of you who have first hand experience of domestic abuse are in a different league than me. I acknowledge that but I can relate in my own limited way to the treatment that you have received. I have also been lambasted by “boards and pastor” coming together with me alone in the room and putting a muzzle on me. This is against freedom of speech and religious freedom besides common sense. Don’t ever subjugate yourself to meetings like that without someone you trust with you or laying out conditions for participation like recording the session. If they refuse back off because their motives are not pure.

    Somethings I thought about for those who are going through this torment and misery – 1. Record conversations and phone calls- document, document, document. 2. Get in touch with the press and expose these false pastors and elders so others can be warned. A journalist would love to tackle something like this. 3. Sue those who take money for counselling so-called and get your money back. They are not qualified and shouldn’t be offering counselling if they are not approved by the medical boards. 4. Do not confide in others in the abusive churches. They will not keep quiet if they think it’s a juicy tidbit to spread around (inflating self righteousness). If your problem stains their reputation or casts a shadow on their professionalism they will defend themselves. Look for comfort from without. Blogs like this are great in that sense. Keep up the good work Barb, Ps. Chippen, Jeff and the rest of you all, and I’m praying for you!

  7. Lea

    I wanted to comment on a show I saw recently that addressed domestic violence and I guess this is the best place to do it? The show is called ‘Big Little Lies’ and was on HBO. It centered on several characters, but Nicole Kidman’s was being abused. She won an Emmy last night for her character and the man who played her husband won an Emmy for his (Alexander Skarsgard). There were some interesting scenes with her therapist talking about safety planning and dangers…[It’s HBO so not a Christian show but I thought I would mention it.]

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: