A Cry For Justice

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

Parched for truth — dehydrated — victims appreciate ANY water, but it’s better to give them pure rather than muddy water.

Victims of domestic abuse have been so parched for truth. When we read a teeny bit of truth, we feel like we have had a cup of pure water and we rejoice!

But as we develop our discernment about the right and wrong use of language in regards to domestic abuse, we quite often realize that what we thought was a cup of pure water was in fact somewhat muddy water. The slightly muddy water was magnificent to imbibe at the time — it stopped us from dying of dehydration! But as we go on and become more skilled at this stuff, we realize that the water we drank did need a bit of filtering.

We believe we have so many links to good resources at ACFJ;  why encourage our readers to spend their precious time drinking water that is a bit muddy?

As one of our readers wrote to me when I explained this analogy to her, “I am becoming ‘very well hydrated’ here and on Dr. Simon’s blog, and daily equipped to discern better and better.”

As time has gone on, we have become more aware of victim-pathologizing and victim-blaming language and have fine-tuned our discernment, thanks to the work of people like Dr George Simon, and Allan Wade and his colleagues at Response Based Practice. For me, Barb, this has led me to realize that resources which seemed really good to me some years ago are in fact somewhat problematic.

What are some of the things we have become more discerning of?

When the victim is called an ‘enabler’, that concerns us.

We need to articulate this carefully. A survivor may be happy to say of herself, “I enabled the abuse by staying.” Other survivors are not comfortable being called ‘enablers’ — they hear it as a negative label on them, yet another form of victim-blaming. Because the term is heard differently by different people, we believe it is inappropriate for anyone other than the victim herself to call her an ‘enabler’. We do not judge or seek to correct any victim who calls herself an enabler or a victim-enabler. But we do discourage putting that label on anyone other than yourself.

‘Shouldisms’ — telling victim/survivors what they should do.

Sometimes people who use shouldisms actually use the ‘s’ word (should) when talking to victims. Sometimes they don’t use the word ‘should’  but the effect is still the same: they issue orders to victims, instructing them what they must do.

Rather than telling victims what they should or must do, we believe in offering information, educating readers about the mindset and tactics of abusers, and suggesting options which they may like to consider. We encourage victims; we don’t order them around. We underline that the victim has her own agency and we must not overshadow that, because that is exactly what the abuser has been doing to her — trying to stop her from having her own agency.  The victim is free to make her own decisions in her own time; we honor that. We seek to help victims think through their own situations and weigh up the pros and cons of various actions they might like to take, with safety in mind as well as long-term goals and aspirations.

Pathologizing victims — using language that depicts victims as deficient or defective or pathological in some way.

Rather than pathologizing victims, we elucidate and honor the ways victims resist abuse — the many strategic and judicious ways they maintain their dignity and personhood despite the abuser’s constant attempts to corrode and erode their happiness, confidence, dignity, liberty, agency and safety.


Related post

Enabling? Sins of the victim? Tetchy topics indeed!

Further reading on Victims’ Resistance

Honouring Resistance – a wonderful resource for understanding abuse

How victim’s responses to abuse are mis-labelled, and how abusers’ tactics of abuse are mis-labelled.

Thursday Thought — Staking Out Your Ground


  1. Dale Ingraham @ Speaking Truth In Love Ministries
  2. Anon

    True!! My mom and dad taught me that abuse and incest are a way of life . As with them being working alcoholics. My abuses were swept under the carpet, because their need for beer was greater. As with the blame I got from the state and county in which I resided: I was to be blamed for my head injury by my X before I had an official restraining order on!! I got blamed for being the troublemaker!! No one asked my kids!!

    • twbtc

      Hi Anon,

      Welcome to the blog!

      You will noticed that I changed your screen name and edited some details of your comment to protect your identity. May I suggest that you read our New User’s page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. And if you would like your screen name changed to something else, feel free to contact me and I can change it: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      Again, welcome!

  3. Letting Go

    I resent being called an enabler, because I was strong and full of life until the abuser so isolated and used me emotionally and financially til nothing was left. I knew something was wrong, but not the scale of what he was hiding (affair, porn addiction, money, alienation of our families on both sides and our children). He was masterful at playing the victim and charming others. I had no comprehension that he or anyone could be that evil until he had completed his web.

    No, I was not an enabler. I was an innocent. I did not know what I was fighting or that it even existed to that degree of betrayal.

    Somewhere along the line I did fall into enabling behaviors, because there were no other options to save our family.

    I was the last to know it was already gone, and all the blame was successfully laid squarely on me.

    • Kaycee

      Letting Go,
      I love what you wrote:

      No, I was not an enabler. I was an innocent. I did not know what I was fighting or that it even existed to that degree of betrayal.
      Somewhere along the line I did fall into enabling behaviors, because there were no other options to save our family.

      I, too, did not have any idea that evil could look and act in such a way. We do the best we can while in it and God does help us in those dark valleys. Looking back I have understanding now. I do not feel guilt for my enabling behaviors because I was fighting for a family. Free, I am now–Praise God!

      • Letting Go

        God bless you Kaycee, and prayers for a happy, free future!

        I, not 30 minutes ago, was being triangulated by my sibling who is sympathetic to my ex-husband’s manipulations, and is furthermore taking advantage of an opportunity to gain inroads at alienating our daughter behind my back [detail edited to protect identity]. My dad, her husband, and sons just sat there thinking themselves helping by not getting involved just heaped flames on the fire.

        It never, ever ends unless we can cut ties altogether.

        But then I have a son, too, who is this far an innocent. It is just a matter of time.

        Oh how very, very tired I am of all the manipulations and backstabbing!

    • kaycee

      Letting Go, I am so sorry that the yuckiness continues. I have children that are growing and I still have a level of involvement with the ex. I used to “hope” for better. These days I rely on Faith. One definition of faith I came across described it as ready to walk in the now because of what we have seen God do for us in the past. The enemy likes to roar but Jesus is our shield. When I am overwhelmed with “the stuff” of the past or present, I try to remember what God has done for me and then facing it isn’t as hard. Praying for peace for you this night.

  4. a prodigal daughter returns

    I love the clarity I gain on this website and the sensitivity displayed here about the ways in which abuse strips dignity and how misinformed “helpers” make things worse.

  5. a prodigal daughter returns

    Thank you for this beautiful clarity about the intent of this blog which is so nourishing to so many. The supposed “help” from “helpers”: that pathologize victims furthers the voice of an abuser. That voice “something is wrong with you” coming from my abusers lips was seconded in therapy as they labeled my resistance efforts to the abuse in my life “mental illness”. He got a lot of mileage out of that and my soul and spirit were crushed for many long years not just from the abuse but from the supposed help. I believe I was damaged as badly from the supposed help as I was from the initial abuse. They only reinforced his intention to destroy my sense of worth.

  6. surviving freedom

    I agree that there is a lot of information out there that seems helpful, but after about a year of believing or following the concepts I realized that the information was keeping me stuck and giving the abuser further ammunition. There is a lot of information out there claiming to help but end up making excuses for the abuser and put further blame and responsibility on the target.

    There are four ideas or statements I’ve come across via several abuse sites and from “helpers,” (even from the DV counselor I saw for a year), that as soon as I read / hear them I know that the person who is claiming them either doesn’t know anything about abuse or has been extremely pathologized herself. These four statements are:
    1) she is co-dependent,
    2) she allowed the abuse to happen,
    3) she needs to set better boundaries, and
    4) if she’s not going to leave then she’s also to blame.

    • Very well said, Surviving Freedom! 🙂 🙂 🙂 (applause)

  7. Keeper

    PLEASE…can anyone point me to resources for women who are abused \ battered by women? My mom was the main abuser in my life and in ways still is. After which I married a physically abusive man who I divorced after a few years and has been out of my life for 6 years. But I am dealing mostly with PTSD from my mom and my current husbands ex who was \ is very verbally \ emotionally abusive toward him and I. She was physically violent during their marriage and has threatened physical harm \ death to both of us. We deal with her because of the children involved. It’s so hard to read about abuser \ victim when the abuser is always referred to as a man, women play a part in this my ex’s mom and sister did a lot to get me into and keep me in that relationship lying for him and being emotionally \ verbally abusive to me. I need help dealing with these issues.

    • Hi Keeper, welcome to the blog. 🙂
      We do recognise that the abuser is not always male and the victim is not always female. If you read our definition of abuse in the sidebar (it may appear somewhere else if you are using a phone not a computer or tablet) you will see that it says that sometimes the genders are reversed.
      We generally use the term ‘she’ for the victim because in domestic abuse the female is usually the oppressed one. We encourage those who have experienced situations where the genders are reversed, to switch the gender of the pronouns in their head. Sorry, but we can’t help the fact that English has no gender neutral personal pronoun. 😦

      We do have a tag on the blog for male survivors and the posts with that tag have accounts from men who we believe have been victims of abusive wives. We also have a number of readers here who have suffered abuse from their mothers and/or sisters. You are not alone!

      Quite often perpetrators of domestic abuse attempt to ‘justify’ the evil they do because they were victims of abuse themselves. That is just another way they evade taking responsibility for their bad behavior. Sometimes there were indeed victims in the past, but sometime they were not, or they are exaggerating and lying about how much abuse they suffered in the past. The fact is, many people (including many of us at this site) have been victims of abuse but do not go on to perpetrate abuse on others. So a person’s history is no excuse. It is always a choice to abuse.

    • Also, Keeper, I want to acknowledge that we received your third comment; we haven’t published it yet but are holding it at the back of the blog for the moment. Maybe after you’ve read my response above you will feel more okay about the way we handle the gender issue on this blog. I hope so. Feel free to email me if you wish to further discuss it. barbara@notunderbondage.com

    • You might also find this post helpful Family Scapegoating Part 1
      And we have a tag for PTSD with quite a few posts in it.
      We also have a page called Resources for PTSD
      love from Barb

  8. Karen

    I could not get the link to work for the resistance pdf link?

    • Thanks for the head’s up about that link, Karen. I have fixed it now.
      The pdf booklet Honouring Resistance [Internet Archive link] did not used to have its own URL so we had to use another link that was a bit awkward. Thankfully, that website has now given the booklet its own URL. 🙂

  9. Finding Answers

    Barb wrote:

    But as we develop our discernment about the right and wrong use of language in regards to domestic abuse, we quite often realize that what we thought was a cup of pure water was in fact somewhat muddy water….

    A Prodigal Daughter Returns commented:

    I love the clarity I gain on this website and the sensitivity displayed here about the ways in which abuse strips dignity and how misinformed “helpers” make things worse.


    For me, both comments could be applied to a wide range of topics I find on the ACFJ blog….

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