7. Is “addressing the hearts of abusive men” the best way of reducing violence against women, Chris Moles?
Chris Moles believes that “the most effective means of reducing violence against women is addressing the hearts of men”.
And for Chris, that means addressing the hearts of abusive men.
But what if addressing the hearts of abusive men is NOT the most effective means of reducing violence against women?
What if working to change the attitudes and beliefs among the overall male population is the most effective way of reducing violence against women?
Men who abuse their female partners have adopted distorted thinking from puberty or even younger. And once a man starts abusing women he locks in, in many ways.
Skilled male offenders find it easy to get away with what they do, because they are seldom sanctioned. Many men who abuse women get collusion everywhere they go.
It is pretty unusual to come across non-abusive men who are speaking out about this or calling other men to account. Few men are talking about male violence against women and male sexual entitlement as a really important issue for society to address in its policies, procedures and laws. Most men still see domestic abuse and other forms of male violence against women as “a women’s issue”.
And only a minority of men who speak up about it are willing to listen to and honor the female activists & survivors who have decades of experience in addressing the issue. All too often, a male activist still wants to take centre stage.
But thankfully, some men (most of whom are not professing Christians) are ‘woke’ and humble enough to listen to the women who have experience at the coal face because they are survivors, or they have years of experience in supporting and advocating for victims.
As a society we may not be able to get the vast majority of abusive men to reform, but we can make it much harder for them to get away with what they do.
Preventing domestic, sexual, and all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls is primarily the responsibility of men. This also includes teaching and promoting healthy concepts of manhood to each other, our sons and other boys.
The majority of men don’t perpetrate violence against women and girls.
What the majority of men are responsible for is creating, maintaining and benefiting from a male dominating culture that is required for the violence to exist.
Once educated to these realities we believe there is hope for men.
– A Call To Men (emphasis added)
I encourage you to click through and read that entire article from A Call To Men.
A little while ago we ran a series about Don Hennessy. Let me repeat here what Don Hennessy says in his book How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser¹ –
We need to find a way to challenge the tolerance of male sexual entitlement which is endemic in our society. This goal is the only one not supported by the skilled offender. (208, emphasis added)
The issue that limits most of us is that the reality of intimate partner abuse is beyond our belief. (215)
After more than thirty years of energy and commitment our efforts have achieved very little. We have become tangled in a debate that is being orchestrated unwittingly on behalf of skilled offenders. I use the word unwittingly with caution because the power and the success of this distractive discussion may well be a highly efficient and well-hidden tactic of male sexual predators. (203)
The system designed and supported by the community has also been contaminated by the psychephile. (214)
The church is in a dire state. Abuse victims are leaving in droves.
Most people and leaders in the visible church believe a great many sub-biblical and incorrect doctrines—and this makes the church an abuser-friendly environment. In many cases, the church is a more abuser-friendly environment than the overall society.
I could paraphrase what Don Hennessy said:
The system designed and supported by the church has been contaminated by abusive men who portray themselves as Christians.
A person like Chris Moles has influence to educate the church about domestic abuse. And precisely because Chris has influence, he has a greater duty of care for the victims. So it is biblical for us to be holding him to a higher standard (James 3:1).
Someone like Chris Moles ought to be educating the church about all the recalibration it needs to do to eject all those sub-biblical and incorrect doctrines if it is going to respond rightly to domestic abuse. Like that robot which in the movies which said “Exterminate, exterminate…”, Chris should be saying to the church: “Recalibrate, recalibrate…”. But he’s too weak and too lacking in scriptural wisdom to do that. (I will back up those assertions in future posts in this series.) Instead, Chris is just enjoying the fame and fortune of being the Biblical Counseling tribe’s poster boy for DV.
So far, the secular research indicates that preventing and responding to family violence is highly complex and there is no single or easy solution (link [Internet Archive link]). Programs for abusive men are only a small element of prevention, and whether they have any beneficial effect long term is yet to be confirmed.
Changing social attitudes toward gender equality, and improving the social systems which respond to domestic abuse are at least as important if not more important than working with the abusive men themselves (see here, here and here). Attitudinal change in a society usually give rise to changes in that society’s legislation, social policies and institutional practices. This big picture—the systemic attitudes, default assumptions, laws, doctrines, policies, rule books and between-the-lines unspoken codes—are the systems which make it easy (or harder) for abusers to get away with their abuse.
It is so doggone hard to get abusive men to change their hearts! What if changing social attitudes and default assumptions—and systems—is the best way to reduce violence against women? What if reviewing and improving laws, policies and codes of conduct is the way to best reduce violence against women?
What if a lot more people in secular society and the church were able to recognize an abuser’s tactics? What if more people would stop being passive bystanders and start actively resisting being recruited as abusers’ allies? What if a lot more people were equipped to identify the real victims and believe and support them? What if social systems and policies were changed to empower the victims, helping them quickly get safe and stay safe from their abusers, as soon as they realized they were being abused?
All those changes would make it much harder for abusers to get away with their abuse.
Chris Moles has signally failed to expose many of the wrong doctrines within churches which need to be recalibrated—possibly because he is blind to (and resistant to) seeing those things as false doctrines. And Chris speaks way too lightly about the practices that most churches have routinely been doing which compound the victim’s suffering. So he’s not doing enough to unseat the church from all its sub-biblical and false doctrines that need recalibration.
I wonder whether Chris has ever looked at our Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry.
He describes how when he’s running groups for men who are court-mandated to attend, as soon as he tells the men he is a pastor the first question the guys ask is, “When’s service Pastor? Can I come to your church?” (C 53:420).
When some men in the community-oriented groups I lead find out I am a pastor they immediately try to build support or commonality by citing their own experience or the importance of their faith, often claiming to be in a backslidden condition and how it must be providential that they have met me. Usually this is followed by questions about my church’s location and service times. … I communicate with them that I will not be their pastor, at least while they are in the program. I share with them information about local bible-believing churches in the area whose pastors are friends of mine and support the work we do. … [I know that] this man’s “Christianity” may in fact be a tool to use me for his agenda.
… of the dozens of conversations like this, I have had a total of six men attend recommended churches, receive Christ as Savior, were baptized and discipled by their pastor. (M, p 78)
Chris says that it is rare for a man who abuses his intimate partner to reform (H 24:38). In all the lectures and interviews I’ve heard by Chris, he never once stated the percentage of men he has counselled who have become non-abusive. He was asked this question directly (H) and did not answer it — he only mentioned research which shows that abusive men who have been convicted of a DV crime and have then completed Batterers Programs have a lower rate of recidivism than their peers who do not go to Batterers Program.
I believe Chris may possibly be having a few successes because (a) he has been trained by secular professionals on the tactics abusive men use, (b) he has years of practice running abuser groups for his state’s Probation Department, and (c) the Probation Dept has the power to send the guys to jail if they don’t abide by their probation conditions, so there is a stick as well as a carrot.
But even in saying that, I am not convinced that any of the men Chris has dealt with have truly changed into non-abusers. And I am even more doubtful that any of the men Chris has treated have been regenerated—have been brought by the power of God to a living faith in Christ. I have no confidence that Chris and the pastors he refers abusive men to, are not abiding in the preacher-boys-club mentality: a mentality which makes it unlikely they would detect the abusive man’s snow job.
Furthermore, I know of quite a number of cases where a man seemed to be pretty non-abusive for months or years, but eventually he displayed his true colours as an abuser— or eventually his victim came out of the fog enough to identify that the guy was chronically disrespecting and mistreating her. In some of these cases, the man had stopped raging at his partner and being physically violent, but he was still sexually and emotionally abusing her.
Most biblical counselors and pastors who try practicing what Moles is teaching will not have received the amount of training Chris has received. And more importantly they will not be working in a program that has formal connection to the secular justice system. So when Chris teaches his model to biblical counselors and pastors, the chances are they will go away and practice it without the training and experience Chris has had and without the formal backup of the secular state which bears the sword (Romans 13) to restrain and punish heinous sinners.
One of the reasons why Don Hennessy and his colleagues in the Cork Domestic Violence Project decided not to keep trying to reform abusive men was that their program was not linked to the justice system. Speaking the Cork Domestic Violence Project, Hennessy says:
Our own experience was that we were continually reminded of our inability to create lasting change [in the offenders]. We were also constantly reminded that we ran the risk of increasing the danger to our clients. We gradually wound up our group work with perpetrators as we became convinced that work with batterers should not be done in isolation but requires inter-agency efforts and multidimensional initiatives. What has become clearer in the last few years is that perpetrator programs are at best unhelpful and may even prove to be a further risk for sufferers of abuse.
(For more detail, see “How He Gets Into Her Head” — an introduction to Don Hennessy’s book)
I believe Chris’s teaching will enable churches and biblical counselors to go on neglecting and outright harming victims
Chris is teaching biblical counselors and churches an elaborate schema which enables them to proclaim ‘there is hope for the abuser’. I predict that most churches who imbibe Chris’s teaching will spout the rhetoric of victim care and safety, but will doggedly go on seeing marriage restoration as the most important goal. And Chris is not doing enough to guard against that outcome.
Chris is a little ambivalent on whether or not marriage restoration is the goal. But here is an example where he says it is the goal:
…hurried marriage-focused solutions may endanger one party and ultimately undermine the long term success of the marriage we are desperately trying to save.
The only way to view this is to imagine the reconciliation process like a hurdle race at a track and field event. While each hurdle must be cleared by the runner, he or she is bound by the rules to clear them in the proper order. … Our first obstacle [hurdle] is the husband’s use of violence, not communication, not nagging, and not even the marriage. Our first objective is to end the violence. Then we are free to traverse the next obstacle on the way to reconciliation. (M 14)
We already know of one instance where Chris’s teaching has not served to protect a victim. Chris trained the leaders and the DART team at Bethlehem Baptist Church. And despite that training they received, they have excommunicated a victim of domestic abuse — this is fully documented here.
Most church leaders and biblical counselors think they are spiritually equipped to ‘redeem’ abusive marriages. The R word is like fairy dust which glazes the eyes of so many Christians.
I am afraid that pastors and elders (and fog-bound victims) are still so fixated on marriage restoration that Chris Mole’s message “there is hope for abusers” will only serve to prolong that fixated mindset.
In my view, achieving the very rare instance of abuser reformation is far less important, and far less effective, than working to alleviate the plight of all the victims whose abusers will not reform. And I believe that the way to do this is to get men in general to recognise that
- Preventing domestic, sexual, and all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls is primarily the responsibility of men.
- All forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls are interwoven.
- All men are responsible for creating, maintaining and benefiting from a male dominating culture that is required for male violence/abuse against women to exist.
(source: A Call to Men)
Citations of items by Chris Moles in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter. The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter. The quote from Chris with which I opened this article – “the most effective means of reducing violence against women is addressing the hearts of men” – comes from C 22:45.
¹ Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
For professionals who work in Domestic Abuse – (Don Hennessy series part 8)
Note: this post mentions Leslie Vernick
Men must do more to stop violence against women by Damien Willoughby.
Damien Willoughby is the co-host of the @AllMenCanAU podcast now available on iTunes and Soundcloud. Language warning: the two guys who do this podcast are not Christians and they sometimes use swear words when saying how outraged they are about male violence against women, and when recounting the awful things disrespectful men say.
How can we learn from #MeToo to shape the next generation of men? – several men discuss this question in this well produced video from WeAreManEnough
We are sharing the video because what these men are say about #MeToo is so much more enlightened than what a lot of Christian men are saying about it. But please note: these men do not appear to be Christians and there are a few swear words in their conversation and one brief mention of the ‘pro-choice’ lobby being a good thing. A Cry For Justice does not support the ‘pro-choice’ lobby.