Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but… (pt 2 of series on the Church Cares program)
Darby Strickland is helping awaken the church to abuse issues. She is one of the teachers in the free videos which are soon to come out from Church Cares – the SBC’s attempt to start educating the church about how to identify and respond to abuse.
In Part 1 of this series I praised the people of conscience in the SBC who are spearheading Church Cares, then I discussed the strengths and shortfalls of Chris Moles who is a member of the Church Cares teaching team.
Here in Part 2 I’ll be talking about Darby Strickland who is another member of the Church Cares teaching team. In later parts of this series I will talk about two other people who are on the teaching team: Leslie Vernick and Diane Langberg. Then I will published a Digest which will gives quick links to all my posts about churchcares.com.
If you plan on watching the Church Cares videos, you can read my series to get a second opinion about what may be taught there. You may or may not agree with my views, but reading my posts might stimulate your discernment and make you aware of things to watch out for.
Here is my view of the strengths of Darby Strickland, and a few things which I recommend she modify to be even more effective.
I think all the posts I’ve read at Darby Strickland’s blog are pretty good.
I applaud and honour Darby for trying to educate pastors and counselors with her 3-part series titled Sexual Abuse in Marriage. However, it worries me that when she mentioned rape her wording gave an unclear idea of what constitutes rape. Here is the passage in question –
Violation. The worst sexual violation is rape, but there are many types of violation. Among them are sexual acts performed while someone is sleeping or intoxicated, unwanted sexual touch, being forced to engage in an unwanted act to avoid another abuse, or a husband ignoring tears or other expressions of discomfort. Sadly, I have heard many stories of Christian women who were raped on their honeymoon. They were conditioned early on in their marriage to be compliant or be terrorized. Sexual Abuse in Marriage, Part 1
Darby’s woolly wording can give the impression that ‘real’ rape is less serious than the penetration of person who is sleeping or intoxicated. But rape is the act of penetration of any orifice without the consent of the one being penetrated. A sleeping or heavily intoxicated person cannot give proper consent. That is rape. No buts about it. As I’ve said before on this blog: Consent is the “Yes” you say when you are free to say “No”. You’re not free to say no if you are asleep or drugged. If someone penetrates you while you are not free to say “No,” you are being raped.
It also worries me that that when Darby explained to pastors and counselors why women might not realize they are being abused, she didn’t give a strong warning about the dangers and risks of couple counseling in domestic abuse. I believe Darby is aware of those dangers, but she didn’t not sufficiently spell them out to less-educated pastors and counselors.
Darby’s post Twelve Ways to Help Victims is excellent. I highly recommend it.
A few women have told me their abusive husbands were counselled by Darby and she did a great job laying it on the line firmly with the abusive husbands. But it worries me that Darby says abusers “lack insight” into the harm they are doing and she offers pity to an abuser by saying to him, “It’s hard for you, given that your wife is nagging… how can you serve her better?” (podcast where Darby said those things).
Whenever we are talking about abuse, the language we use is very important.
Look at the bottom row in that table. By going along with the abuser’s narrative that his wife is a nag, Darby failed to contest the blaming of the victim. An abuser could think to himself: Ha! Darby agrees that my wife is a nag! I’ll store that away and say it to my wife next time she brings up a grievance and I have to crush her and put her back in her place.
Don Hennessy says that the skilled male abuser knows what he is doing from day one and is wholly intentional about selecting, targeting, grooming and abusing the target-woman. He says domestic abusers are like pedophiles — and there’s not much proof they’re redeemable. Don has dealt with over 2000 abusive men. He’s probably more experienced in this field than most Christian counselors. I wonder whether Darby has read Don’s work.
It worries me that Darby seems to think the abuser is “oppressed” because the abuser is “enslaved to the desire to be served, instead of serving the Lord” (link). By saying this, she is giving the abuser leeway to play the pity card. The proper response to abusers is to be hard as flint and not give them any opportunity to push the pity card.
Darby is a staff member of CCEF. It worries me that three senior men at CCEF say the Christian victim of abuse “needs redemption” (link) – they imply that the abused Christian is not in the Kingdom of God. For all I know Darby may be privately challenging those men about this, but I’ve not seen anything from her in the public domain which suggests she is not comfortable with their line on that.
Some counselors have told me that Darby’s ‘Counseling Abusive Marriages’ course enhanced their skills as counselors. But click here, here and here to see why I’m worried that the course might be offering bread mixed with stones.
Until very recently the Chairman of the CCEF Board was Dave Harvey. Dave Harvey has a track record of having to resign from top positions because of his character deficiencies and family issues – Brent Detwiler has been tracking the problems with Dave Harvey (link). While I was drafting this post CCEF appointed a new chairman, but Dave Harvey is still a member of their board (proof). I appreciate that Darby Strickland may be doing a balancing act at CCEF; she is obviously more aware of the tactics of abusers than most of the rest of CCEF are. I only hope she is not compromising her values and violating her conscience.
The table in this post is based on the work of Allan Wade & Linda Coates, especially their article Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations – the link takes you to a pdf of that article which was originally published in the Journal of Family Violence (2007) 22:511-522.
Posts in this 5-part series
Part 2: Is this post