A Cry For Justice

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

Covid19 and interpersonal abuse

Domestic abuse and family violence are bound to increase because of the new laws and policies that have been put in place.

Many victims of abuse are stuck at home with their abusers because of lockdowns of non-essential services, people being urged to work from home, and people being ordered or choosing to self-isolate in their homes. There is financial insecurity for many.

In this article I’m not going to discuss whether institutional policies for dealing with #Covid19 / #Coronavirus are wise or foolish. I just want to focus on the plight of the already-abused… and the folks who no doubt will start being abused in their own homes now that more people are stuck at home together with family members for long periods.

I chatted today to a uniformed police officer. I asked for his thoughts on the changes. He said, “Family violence will go through the roof.”

Church provision of pastoral care for the abused has always been patchy and often downright negligent – resulting in further abuse and re-traumatisation of the abused.

Now that churches are closed or compelled to do most of their activities remotely – by phone call, social messaging, or online video – their pastoral care for the abused is likely to become even worse.

James 1:27 is an important verse for church leaders and all Christians who have the capacity to extend care to others. In reading this verse, bear in mind that ‘widows’ refers to all women who are bereft of a husband whether by the husband’s death, desertion or abusiveness.

Pure devotion, and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their adversity, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

‘Visit’ can mean a phone call. If you are making a call to someone who you think might be living with an abuser, be mindful that the abuser may be overhearing the conversation. Ask the person if it is a good time to talk or whether they’d like to talk another time, or interact another way.  Also be aware that some abusers monitor their victim’s phones and computer activity. Take the lead from the victim. Victims are probably more expert on their own safety than you are, unless you have been trained in safety issues with domestic abuse.

To everyone of good will:
High anxiety reduces cognitive ability. If you’ve been making stuff-ups recently because the Coronavirus panic is making you anxious, don’t be too hard on yourself.

I hope you use common sense. Please do not forget the poor.

To pastors and elders of churches:
You had plenty of opportunity in the past to get to know the abuse victims in your church face to face – to find out who they are, hear their stories over time, lament with them, defend them, help them obtain justice and reparation, and help them in their advocacy for other victims. The time for that face to face ‘getting to know them’ is past, at least for the foreseeable future.

Think about that. How does that sit on your conscience?

To unrepentant evildoers: 
Repent! Jesus Christ is coming again. No one knows the day or the hour.

To folks who are suffering abuse or are enduring the lifetime consequences of having been abused:
The bad news is that your abuser may escalate – become even more abusive. And support-services will be even more overstretched.

Your emotions of fear, anxiety, depression or anger may become more intense… or you may find yourself numbing your emotions and dissociating even more than you have in the past. I encourage you to be kind to yourself.

It may help to keep reminding yourself: It is not my fault. I am not going crazy. I am not to blame. I am being abused.

Whatever your circumstances, I encourage you to lean on Jesus Christ. Jesus does not break bruised reeds. He is patient and kind and merciful – especially to those who have been afflicted and mistreated by arrogant, foolish or malicious people.

Psalm 9:13-20

Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider the trouble which I suffer of them that hate me : thou that liftest me up from the gates of death.
That I may shew all thy praises within the ports of the daughter of Sion : I will rejoice in thy salvation.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made : in the same net which they hid privily, is their foot taken.
The Lord is known to execute judgement : the ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands.
The wicked shall be turned into hell : and all the people that forget God.
For the poor shall not always be forgotten : the patient abiding of the meek shall not perish for ever.
Up, Lord, and let not man have the upper hand : let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Put them in fear, O Lord : that the heathen may know themselves to be but men.

(Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)

8 Comments

  1. Annie

    Thank you so much, Barbara!

    • Reaching Out

      Hi Annie,

      I have changed your screen name to the one you use most frequently when commenting. 🙂

  2. Finding Answers

    From the original post “Domestic abuse and family violence are bound to increase because of the new laws and policies that have been put in place.”

    ^That.

    From the original post “…..or are enduring the lifetime consequences of having been abused:”

    ^That.

    From the original post “…..emotions of fear, anxiety, depression or anger may become more intense…..”

    ^That.

    For me, although I have not partially dissociated since my walls crumbled just over two years ago, my hyper-vigilance, my constant shaking in fear, and MANY of my other past symptoms have magnified intensely.

    From the original post “…..Jesus does not break bruised reeds. He is patient and kind and merciful – especially to those who have been afflicted and mistreated by arrogant, foolish or malicious people.”

    ^THAT is SO hard for me to remember, especially when everything seems to be happening to me at the same time (working through past traumas, dealing with new traumas, etc.)

    From the original post “It may help to keep reminding yourself: “It is not my fault. I am not going crazy. I am not to blame……”

    ^That. Sometimes I need to remember I am not going crazy, especially when I have spent almost my entire life as a scapegoat, being told it was my fault and I was to blame.

    From the original post “……I encourage you to be kind to yourself.”

    ^That (being kind to myself) is something with which I have had very little practice.

    Thank you for the reminder to cut myself some slack.

    • Hope

      Hello Finding Answers,
      I have difficulty with being kind to myself, too. I have always been aware of needing to be kind to others, but I never transferred this to myself. I still have trouble with it but I am learning and I am getting better at it. I am allowed to have my own thoughts, my own emotions, my own style, my own responses, my own choices, and my own voice – and so are you, even if they must stay in your head right now for your own safety. I spent many years living in my head for that reason.
      I once had a friend who often told me to “do something fun today” and I never knew what that meant. I still struggle with it, but it, too, is good advice. I have decided to watch movies that I love while this pandemic goes on. I highly recommend comedies to anyone that is able do this, and I know that many cannot. The computer is hands for such things, youtube is free and Netflix is pretty cheap.
      Stay well, God bless you.

      • Finding Answers

        Hope commented (23RD MARCH 2020 – 10:39 AM) “……I have always been aware of needing to be kind to others, but I never transferred this to myself……”

        ^That.

        In the same comment, Hope commented “…..living in my head…..”

        For me, although I am physically safe (I live alone), I have reverted to silence.

        In the same comment, Hope commented “…..I never knew what that meant…..”

        ^That, and I STILL don’t know the meaning of “fun”.

        There are things that keep me occupied, there are things that I enjoy researching, there are things I enjoy communicating, etc., but I cannot say “enjoy” and “fun” are the same thing.

        Maybe the definition of the word “fun” depends on the individual and the context of the moment.

  3. Hope

    Thank you so much Barb, for this wise, excellent, and timely advice.
    Stay well, everyone.

  4. berryfinder

    I’m not in a great place. I am separated from my husband and have been for [roughly] a year. We have children and a divorce in court. He has emotionally abused me and physically intimidated me for a decade.

    I panicked about the virus and asked him to spend the night. That was before I prayed and God gave me peace and wisdom. Well I am sad to say that I made some bad decisions with him. Now we’re back to saying “I love you” and he’s being really sweet to me.

    I had thought I found evidence of him having an affair, so I told him I would be moving on. He said he hasn’t moved on, and I believe him. So I just don’t know anymore.

    Sorry. I know this isn’t necessarily an advice forum. But I know you’re familiar with all the dynamics of abuse. And I just really don’t know what to do now.

    • Hi berryfinder, I’m sorry it has taken me a little while to publish and respond to your comment.

      I think the best way I can respond to you is to write some statements and some questions that might help you think through what you want to do. Don’t feel obliged to write your answers to the questions here… though you can if you wish.

      You chose to ask him to spend the night with you. You say “I made some bad decisions with him.”

      Okay. You can always make another choice. You can choose to now tell him something like “I regret asking you to spend the night. I regret what we did that night. I want you to leave.”

      Or you can choose to go on saying “I love you” to him.

      You wrote: “He said he hasn’t moved on, and I believe him.” Is it possible that you are believing him because you wish he was telling the truth — you wish he really cared for your well-being, you wish he really had your best interests at heart?

      You told us your understanding of the history of the relationship: he emotionally and physically intimidated you for a decade.

      Is it likely that he will have repented of and entirely given up his entitlement mentality that led him to emotionally and physically intimidate you for a decade?

      In the past, has he ever sucked you back into hoping that he really cares for you and will never disrespect you again?

      What do you want? Short term pleasure and the hope-honeypot? Or the alternative — which is probably harder in the short term but is likely to give you and your kids more safety and well-being in the longer term.

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