A Cry For Justice

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

What is Abuse & What is the Christian Response? — by Latina Leaders Leaving Legacy

Is there someone in your life who belittles you or who makes you feel like you can never do anything right? Is this abusive? Is someone in your life being aggressive with you? Is this abusive?

To understand the signs that there is an abusive person in your life and how should you react as a Christian, you can listen to this audio video file: What is Abuse and What is the Christian Response? (48 min) [Since the audio file link was broken, we replaced it with the video. Editors.]

When you click the link you may be invited to sign in to Dropbox. You can ignore that invitation. You don’t have to sign in to Dropbox to hear the audio.

The audio video comes from Latina Ladies Leaving Legacy. The are interviewing Evaliz who earned her masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University. She describes the specific signs to look for to identify abusive behavior. And she gives scripture passages that say what we as Christians can do about it. Evaliz currently works with abuse victims and is a survivor of abuse herself.


Thanks to the ACFJ reader who shared this audio with me. I apologise for taking a while to post it.

Hotlines for those dealing with domestic abuse

Safety Planning for victims of domestic abuse

For further reading

Frequently Asked Questions at A Cry For Justice

Why Couple Counseling is not recommended for domestic abuse

Don Hennessy says domestic abusers are like pedophiles – and there’s not much proof they’re redeemable.

For professionals who work in Domestic Abuse – (Don Hennessy series part 8)

Since the Fall, men have been sinfully disposed to oppress women — but this doesn’t mean women must remain in abusive marriages.

What does the Bible say about divorce?

God’s view of women who get targeted by abusive men (2 Timothy 3:6-7)

“Little women” have been called “silly women” which now contributes to misogyny in the church

Why did Paul call abused women ‘little-women’?


  1. Becoming

    I’m glad to see you posting again. After nine or ten days of silence, I searched around and found the controversy. I hope that doesn’t affect this ministry long term. The Don Hennessy you shared, the Bible verses, the supportive atmosphere of the comments have been a real blessing.

    During the time of silence on this blog I read and listened to audio of first John dozens of times, because I needed that “walk by the spirit” and “abide” and “little children, stay away from idols” message.

    During this time you were silent, I read archives too. And I managed to leave after more than two decades. I wanted to let you know I am writing this upon awakening in my new home, a bittersweet time.

    I am praying for this ministry and for Barbara.

    • Thanks, Becoming. During this last nine or ten days, it feels like I’ve been pinned under several different high pressure hoses. One of those hoses was being directed by people who are unjustly castigating me and mocking me. Others are to do with how I’ve been helping live victims get safe from severe abuse and gang stalking and that has taken a lot of my time and attention.

      I’m okay. I have a new post in the pipeline. 🙂 I am intending to keep the blog going, and to use the blog to minister to victims.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Thank you for investing ln lives, helping live victims get safe. We, in the USA, will never, ever know of the ongoing ministry to victims that you continue to invest in on the other side of the world.

        Your silent ministry is to women just like me. I so appreciate your commitment to make a difference in women’s lives, one at a time. It is a very difficult, often silent ministry. I also realize that it is a ministry to men, as well.

    • Seeing Clearly

      Becoming, you have been doing a lot of very hard work in the silence. I am thankful that you have chosen to set yourself free. It took me [over three decades] as I did not have the guidance of ACFJ [over one decade] ago. So thankful for your words today. Continue in your courage, we support you.

  2. Anne

    A ministry of walking besides abuse victims is worth more than gold. I was abandoned by my extended family and 20 year long friendships where we lived due to my abuser weaving his deception of ugly lies regarding me. ACFJ was a tremendous source of belonging and being heard as I grappled about and hoped for an end to my nightmare. I found some VERY disturbing things as I emptied out the marital home and from info subpoenaed during the divorce; once again God confirming to me that the ex was indeed WORSE than even I knew! 30 years worth of heartache, confusion, neglect, & heart-stabbing hurt. I’m very thankful for everyone from ACFJ that has helped me along the way.

  3. Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

    I dread to think where I would have been if I had not found ACFJ and posts re abuse and Asperger’s etc. I had searched for many years, knowing in my heart things were wrong, but I desperately needed Christian answers to many questions. I was at the end of my tether and in a very dark place, after reaching out to my pastor and receiving much more hurt. Feeling dead inside I was in so much confusion and pain. I can never thank Barbara enough for her initial mails and ever since. Putting everything into perspective, giving good sound advice and counsel. I’m many years on since then and I still need this site so much. It’s my only lifeline, my place of answers, my place of sanity and support and I’ve come a long way and stronger because of it and you all here.

    I’ve just watched a program as I got in tonight on male abusers and can they change, etc? It’s amazing in this past year in my neck of the woods how much [many?] new programs have arisen for the abuser and yet there remains still only a few for the victim. It was astonishing and how courts are pushing this as almost the answer. I watched and it made very clear there was no crucial evidence at all to suggest any change even with all these programs. I watched a little more and could not believe how some of the programs operated, totally playing into the hands of the abuser, and more worryingly giving them a measure of hope that should it be one or two years down the line that the abuser was going to be back with their partners and children. Oh how it disturbed me….crazy hopes and how much more will an abuser hold on. There was so much that was disturbing to say the least. The last thing I would want is my ex thinking “oh I could maybe do this program and get back with him….”

    I could see these guys hoodwinking their counsellors. How could they not see it was all lies? I guess it was because they are so focused on the hope of change and belief they can change. It was glaringly obvious they were manipulating. What happened once the program was finished for the two guys portrayed. One never got any further and was stopped seeing his children as matters had got worse. The other who supposedly was doing soooo well, and making great progress (in the counsellors’ eyes) everything fell apart and he reverted back to giving social workers etc abuse. Obviously resulting in no access.

    I’ve learnt so much these last (I think) five years probably since first contact here, and I still feel totally inadequate and a baby to all this. I’ve been so hurt and so much inside needs [to be] worked out of me. All that conditioning we don’t realise sometimes is even there.

    On a positive note I had a great chat with my father yesterday and told him of my divorce coming up. Told him how I felt about what had been said by the rest of family recently and how hurt I was. He backed me 100% and said he saw right through my abuser years ago. He only wish I had jumped earlier. He told me what he said to my pastor and [pastor’s] wife. Up to now I had only little snippets. He did not hold back. I was so happy he got to stand up for me, well he gave them no choice. I told him how I felt that others in the family seemed to put my abuser on a pedestal over me, only because they feel sorry and have this so-called Christian [way] of thinking the best of someone. He agreed and has said he is fighting [in] my corner at home too. He told me how even after the separation and these last few years despite my protestation and how it breaks my legal agreement re contact even indirectly, that they had still wanted to take Christmas and birthday presents to her.

    The first time this happened it gave my soon-to-be ex enough fuel for to contact me, which I did not want.

    I felt and still do feel very betrayed. He listened and agreed with me. He understood exactly what I was saying as he kept agreeing and gave some of his own concerns. I know he will pass on what I said but I could not do it direct as any time I have said [it] before it was taken as negative and with a very defensive attitude.

    I was able to tell him why I was divorcing, my biblical basis, etc. He never did have problems with it. It was good though to again explain my point of view biblically which I know the others in the family have real struggles with. It’s a learning curve for all of us. He never had a problem with myself re divorcing. He only wanted me to do it earlier and make sure I got far more financially than I had settled for [for] the sake of peace.

    He elaborated how wrong it was of the pastor to treat me such as he did. He said he had it out with him and in front of his [the pastor’s} wife. He also told me that the other person I felt had also contributed to the agenda and harsh stance was also there. He took his stand very strongly against the controlling spirit that they had and how wrong they were on this and other issues with church.

    The pastor’s main problem was he felt if he married someone or was their pastor it was a slight on him if marriages went wrong. So it would NEVER happen on HIS patch!!

    He was told “who made YOU GOD!?” He was told that if every pastor we knew felt like that our churches would be full of mental breakdowns of pastors, and there would be chaos. Nearly every church has a marriage problem he said, some far more than that and pastors need to realise they are not God! All sorts of reasons arise to warrant a divorce due to marital breakdown. That we must accept, whether we like it or not. Thinking we are God and can cure all sorts of problems and sort everyone out often keeping people together and doing far more damage (which you did in my name case) destroying people’s spirits and lives. He made it abundantly clear that they had handled everything with my marriage totally wrong, for wrong reasons and that they had no idea the immense damage they had done. I could not have said it any better. I was able to share more of that meeting and how bad it was with him again. I was able to share how damaged I felt and some of the things in me that has arisen from that and still is difficult including going anywhere near a church. He said he saw that and he got it.

    I told him I really struggle with shaking hands or being at funerals and meeting these people. I mentioned church and that I could never feel free. I don’t know where I would stand if people knew things. He said only one person would have your back. I knew who he would mention. It was the very person who had had the same from her husband. I knew about that as I ministered and often saw the tears flow as God healed her soul often. Always coming afterwards to thank. She did not need to say any more – she knew and I knew. It let me know though they still attended the church (the pastor I mention is long gone) and are heavily involved; he still felt it would not be a good environment for me to heal at all. He would not trust them to be encouraging. That was an eyeopener and very interesting, but the family have had to be careful with a few other issues.

    A very interesting afternoon and another little piece of my healing. Small steps I guess but in my heart it felt a giant leap. It was just good for once to be listened to….I mean properly listened to not just hearing a voice.

    Thank you Barbara and all at ACFJ. I hope that gives people hope to keep faith and keep moving forward.

    • Thanks Now Free….this will encourage other readers I’m sure. Even if a survivor has no one in their family who ‘is in their corner’, they can take comfort from the fact that your dad is in your corner. It shows that there are still some good things in the world.

    • Hello Sunshine

      What a fabulous thing, to have your father’s validation and support.

      I once heard a pastor complain from the pulpit how angry it made him when couples divorced that he had counseled or married. He felt humiliated by it and angry at the couples. I thought, “What a dangerous, mixed up pastor.”

  4. Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

    It takes two to tango

    I’ve come to hate that term as it has often been fired at me from people who should know better. It implies strongly that in some part I am to blame for the abuse I endured for twenty years. I never ever said I was sinless, and am no angel. Sure I have made mistakes! Sure I have lost my temper! Sure I have said hurtful things! Each were wrong if done with sinful intent. However, I sure always was pulled up by the Holy Spirit or even my own heart and always apologised. I would have sat up all night apologising as I always believed that I should never “let the sun go down in my wrath”.

    Something I learnt, to an abuser was often used to aid their smart control.
    I always wanted a clean forgiving state between us both before going on to a new day.

    However, some close to me or those who have asked re my separation etc have come back as I started to answer. Swiftly once you begin to say anything about why and what happened to drive you away, they presume you are being totally negative and not painting the true picture, whatever that is! Then comes this horrible damning phrase….“it takes two to tango!”

    In my heart I’m screaming “how dare you accuse me of any part in this abuse. I am human and yes I have made mistakes. I owned up, I apologised and I moved on. Something my abuser has never done. To this day anyone who gave me abuse has never ever said a simple sorry!”

    I always wanted to stand up and shove that blame and false guilt right back to them. Family were most definitely given it back at any hint of such a belief, because I knew I needed them for support, or at least I thought I did. I thought if they want to be supportive, which they express they do, well they need to learn how to and not bring more pain and hurt.
    Others I’ve met I’ve declined to disagree out of fear, others out of some kind of respect perhaps, and others simply due to the “keeping of the peace!” Sometimes I’ve refrained with friends for fear of being mocked and made an example of, even though many witnessed it for themselves. Now I rarely mention anything and give no reason but if it comes out of the blue, somewhere unwarranted, it’s very quickly shot down. Yes I’m much wiser and stronger now, I hope, and will not take blame or let false guilt ever pile up on me again.

    A few times I had this response from other women who I sussed were most definitely abusers by their actions, reactions and language. Needless to say I ran like the wind from them receiving massive verbal abuse in the process! Other times very sadly it was from damaged and broken women who had been through terrible abuse themselves. I opened up thinking “oh I’m safe here, they will understand!”….when asked why I was separated. Only to realise such was their confusion and pain that in no way would they accept in any shape or form I was really abused (being male) and for some reason acted the same, believing that revealing only a few reasons in response to their questions as negativity.
    Followed of course with – “well it takes two to tango!” Never have I been more hurt hearing that coming from someone who had gone through probably worse than I have had. Such a slap up the face.

    On reading this today from the Gems page (you can tag it Barb) I have my beautiful ballroom response. Haha me doing ballroom that would be hilarious. 🙂
    I’m going to use it from now on and not just a “no I’m not at fault and I’m taking no responsibility, blame or guilt for the abuse of another.” I am not perfect only, Christ is; but I am in my imperfection not an abuser, in fact very much the opposite. Isn’t that why I was targeted and “shot down” and given hell on Earth.

    An eye opener.

    “It takes two to tango.” UGH. I hate that saying! As a ballroom dancer it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me to hear that misquoted. Both people have to know their steps for the dance to look good but ONLY ONE person can screw up the dance by not practicing the steps enough or refusing to move their feet! (Or even worse, purposely trying to trip you!) Don’t even get me started on how the man is supposed to lovingly and firmly lead!! (And, yes, the woman should gracefully follow but she can only do so if she trusts that the man is not going to dance her right into a brick wall.) One of the reasons I love ballroom dance is because, to me, it is symbolic of the way God created a marriage to be when it is healthy.  (By a survivor, calling herself ‘Wondering’, who left this comment at Leslie Vernick’s blog.)

    • Hello Sunshine

      I remember hearing a very respected pastor say “it takes two to tango” re. divorce on a radio broadcast. I wrote to him about it, recognizing how dangerous and unsound that assumption was. I received back an invitation to donate to the ministry, ha ha.

      • Yeah….that’s a pretty typical response from a ‘respected pastor’.

      • Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

        Very typical response – they cannot argue as they know they are wrong, but I fear they don’t respond to the question at hand due to their pride or perhaps simply because they don’t really care. Certainly don’t care for any other opinions but their own. Mmmm, does that remind us of anything re abusers.

  5. Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

    Wow!! I’ve just listened to this. Fantastic and so much in a nutshell. It is an mp3 that could easily be [used] to help others get a nutshell insight into what is going on within us as victims and survivors.

    Thank you for posting this. I think more would listen to this then read a book etc. Sometimes maybe we need to start off with this kind of nutshell approach, perhaps that could lead others to ask more and search more on this subject and how they can truly help people in abusive situations. Why articles here are also so helpful. Sometimes I wonder in our venting or our distress [if] we overwhelm others who are supportive, and come across crazy or so negative to others who are not entirely sure what is going on. It just might be a help to explain things rather than us bombard others, especially in my situation with my Christian family. They want to support but have been conditioned in part, in the past, with wrong doctrines or ideas, and uneducated as to how to deal with this as they never really had to think about it before.

    It’s nice to hear things said over and over too so we are more and more reconditioned as it were. This is why I love to keep coming back here or reading other blogs and responses or re-reading articles and blogs etc. Hearing Gods word for our situations that washes our minds etc over and over and gets rid of the false guilt and rubbish that we have had emptied into us for years. We are still essentially the same person but God is removing the falseness as He washes us with His truth.

    I’m reminded we are a little like a car alternator part for our car engines, but it has become broken due to “wear and tear”…. Often a mechanic will get that part reconditioned – the “wear and tear” part is renewed. It’s given a whole new lease on life and helps the engine start and run better. Keeping it healthier. This is what I see ACFJ doing as you bring the truth of God’s word into our lives over and over again. God uses His word through the site and other blogs / articles associated etc to recondition us (renewal) in order to reenergise us to live as God intended us to live and operate.

    When we immerse ourselves in truth from Gods word, God the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit and renews us. A daily renewing of our very being as we continue to move forward in Christ. This is all part of daily sanctification – God renewing us over and over and setting us apart (for His use and special purposes) and also to present us before the throne of God as spotless to a Holy God. That is encouraging to know. Even though I am hurting, damaged, broken, confused etc etc due to what has happened and trying to heal, as long as I stay true to God and let Him minister His truth into my soul He is actually healing me and setting me day-by-day apart. Why?? He IS using even me for not just any mundane purpose, but just as He did with vessels etc that were sanctified in the temple for “special holy use”. Wow – God is doing the same with me. I may never until heaven know what God is working through me to do but wow 🙂
    What an encouragement – We are special somebodies to God no matter how we feel at times or think He is still using us to work His purposes out! What an amazing and loving God!!

    Ephesians 4:23
    This site, your blogs, your responses etc etc, books recommended is all part of this renewal and reconditioning I believe in me, and I am so blessed by you all.

    Romans 12:1-2

    Jude 1:24
    To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

    To be sanctified means that God’s Word has had an effect on us. It is “through the word” that God cleanses us and makes us holy (Ephesians 5:26; John 17:17).

    He is also cleaning out the rubbish of conditioning and putting back in His truth. I must be open to Him, I must listen to Him, I must believe Him!

    We serve the one, true and living God, there is no other like Him!!

    Thank you Barbara, Latina ladies and Evaliz.

  6. Finding Answers

    Now Free (Formerly Struggling To Be Free) commented:

    I always wanted to stand up and shove that blame and false guilt right back to them….

    I am not in the position to do this to any of my abusers, but I can do two other things:

    First, I can invisibly stand up for the voiceless – not everyone has to be seen to be heard.

    Second, I can give the blame and false guilt to God for healing.

    The first thing is easier to do then the second.

    The Latina Ladies Leaving Legacy video / audio presents the information in a conversational, easy-to-follow format. The important points are covered, without getting tangled up in an excess of detail – a benefit to those still in the fog.

    • Now Free (formerly struggling to be free)

      Thank you, Finding Answers! Yes I totally agree and am doing both of your points also. It’s the right response anyways.

      I say “wanted” in that comment as that was my initial feeling at that particular time. Why did I not do it? Simply because I’ve already done the second of your points and have forgiven them. Dealing with them is a different matter I guess. It’s not easy if I have to see people at particular events. If I had the choice I don’t think I would want to meet at all, if honest. So although I initially feel something it just gets lost quickly. In fact I feel sad for them. I’m reminded of Christ who prayed:

      ….Father forgive them for they know not what they do!….[Luke 23:34]

      I’m not pretending this is in any way the same situation of Christ on the cross or that any abuser knows not what they do (they in the majority if not all cases very much know), but my response is I stand for truth and justice and try to encourage others. I would hate to sin by repaying evil for evil if I just happened to lose my temper. I do believe in standing up and calling out an abuser even angrily, but it’s a thin line to perhaps losing it. ONLY IF IT’S SAFE!!! I often had that dilemma when my wife piled on the abuse too. When I did feel the strength to take a stand it was done firm but not nastily, but on every occasion met with more and greater abuse.

      I know it’s not always possible, safe or easy. It is not important in the overall scheme of things but for some it helps healing. It’s not for everyone. I know a past girlfriend, badly abused as a child, cannot face her abuser and does not see she needs to. She was happy for that when she eventually revealed her abuse and underwent counselling. I never forget her giving me a book when I was 19 so I could help her, but she disagreed that to be fully healed she needed to face her abuser. I agreed with her for reasons I will say here. She also held the same views. I’m not sure even almost 40 or more years on she has changed that idea.

      In a lot of cases if we say they must face their abuser (as sadly some books do) then I think we do an injustice to the individual and their feelings, not to mention their safety physically and mentally. More-so perhaps this belief dilutes the great healing that God brings to those of us who for some reason ,either for safety, anonymity or as in most cases due to death of an abuser cannot do so. I do not believe a victim needs to face their abuser in any way whatsoever as a must to full healing. That restricts the God I believe in who heals without need of me at all. He needs no help from me; He is God and can do absolutely anything. I do not believe there is any condition on His healing, only that we ask for it and are open to Him in our lives. I can be sure He is doing absolutely everything to bring about the person He created as ‘me’ to be, what He creates me for and to be!!

      I loved when you, Finding Answers, said the other day you are just ‘me’! It brought a great smile and amen out in me.

      God is working His purposes out in me. That is a wonderful assurance despite at times perhaps not fully seeing it or feeling it. I don’t see the need to face any abusers personally for myself, although I do understand often resolved issues may not change the scars. It does help many move on with healing. I think that really is up to each of us as individuals. It’s our choice and should never be forced.

      Perhaps more in my mind at times, I think I need to take a firmer stance and speak up, as if I don’t I’m not doing your second point you make, which may bring further crazy acts or words to others and create more damage. That is a greater fear in me. In that sense maybe I need to speak up more. Maybe in time I will revert from just a handshake to a challenge. I know one thing, if any words are spoken regarding my abuse or marriage, etc I don’t think I would be so hesitant. They are very careful not to say anything to me, despite their obvious guilt.

      I gave false guilt and blame etc over to God long ago. I’m not sure if you read my poem song I wrote here a while back saying I am not to blame. That was relating more to do with my wife’s false guilt put on me at time of abuse though. That was a revelation point and a massive part of my healing. Such a burden lifted that day.

      I will continue to stand up and speak up though, in the hope it helps others. It’s not easy, definitely not, but we get stronger. If I can only bring some love and encouragement to anyone then I’m happy and truly blessed.
      I hope anything I say here brings encouragement to others here to press on and perhaps see they are not alone. There is life after abuse!!! So thankful for Barb and you all.

      Keep looking up, Finding Answers! Psalm 121 is so precious.

      I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the maker of the heavens and earth!

      If God can create such a beautiful world and the amazing expanse of the heavens then we are in good hands. My help comes from the Maker of heaven and earth!!! Wow – mind blowing. What He is creating in you and me is hard to see at times (in fact most of the time) but I am sure it’s amazing, as He is creating us more like Him. There is no limit to His help or power to heal!!! In His perfect time He is healing what He believes is the right thing to piece together or to root out of us, and the right time to heal us, we are going to be amazing!! Hard to fathom but we got to believe Him and be encouraged He is truth! We can and must trust Him! 🙂

  7. H

    I appreciate this website but tbh find it somewhat discouraging because of the many articles saying that the abuser rarely changes. Is there a really good program that actually gets the abuser to look at themselves honestly? I know it comes down to one’s personal RESPONSIBILITY ultimately. Do you recommend any? Also how can I contact you?

    • Hello H, the collective testimony of many professionals who work in this area is that domestic abusers rarely take full personal responsibility and reform so they are no longer abusers. We do not know of any abuser change programs that we would recommend.

      Don Hennessy ran groups for male intimate abusers, but stopped when he realised they were not doing much good and were dangerous in some cases. Chris Moles admits that very few abusers make solid and lasting changes so they are no longer abusers, and he also notes that many abusers make changes that are superficial, and many change for the worse not the better.

      Here is our FAQ page What do you know about Programs for Abusers?

      At our About Us page you can find my email address. But please bear in mind that I have very limited time for one-on-one conversation with survivors as most of my time has to go into this blog and my other writing projects.

      But I do read every comment that is submitted to the blog. And when a comment is published at the blog, I reply to it if I feel prompted to do so, so long as I have the time.

      We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

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