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)

13 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.

    • Helovesme

      Thank you Finding Answers; I really like you how quote from the original post and then add in your thoughts the way you do:

      “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.”

      So I really understand the last part. THAT is often the hardest part because well, it just is? I don’t think it needs any more explanation. It just IS. I wish there was an easy way to wipe off all that excess mud that so easily weighs us down.

      And the image in your previous observation reminded me of getting hit “with a ton of bricks”, meaning it all comes at you, all at once. Not sure if trauma can sort of be “parcelled” out so it’s more manageable? Trauma (and those that inflict it on the innocent) doesn’t look to be kind to its victims.

  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.

    • Helovesme

      Praying for you Berryfinder (really like that screen name, by the way)

      And Barb’s reply was fantastic. She asked all the right questions without telling you how to answer them, only putting them before you. That is one of the main goals of this site.

      Your honesty and inner conflict struck a note in me. In my own personal situations, different from yours, I have often tangled with regret and asked God to lead me to repentance IF needed. That is the tricky part right there. I become very hard on myself for various reasons, but I do not know if His thoughts line up with mine—and that makes all the difference.

      Keep praying and seeking Him and knocking on the door. He promises you will be rewarded, and He will be faithful and give you wisdom. All Solomon had to do as ask Him for wisdom, and He generously responded.

      • Finding Answers

        Helovesme commented (12TH APRIL 2020 – 12:05 PM): “I become very hard on myself for various reasons, but I do not know if His thoughts line up with mine……..”

        ^That.

        In the same comment, Helovesme commented: “……I have often tangled with regret and asked God to lead me to repentance IF needed…….”

        ^That.

        Condensing my response to both of the phrases quoted from the comment by Helovesme:

        If my thoughts / words / actions / information / etc. line up with Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is convicting me and I need to repent.

        If my thoughts / words / actions / information / etc. do NOT line up with the Holy Spirit (no matter the origin of the thoughts / words / actions / information / etc.), the origin of the thoughts / words / actions / information / etc. is NOT the Holy Spirit., but is the father of lies (aka Satan), and is named (self-)condemnation.

  5. Helovesme

    Thank you so much for this post, Barb. It was incredibly compassionate and very thoughtful. It acknowledged the hard truths out there, but very much acknowledged the Lord’s overarching presence and power over everything and anything.

    For me personally, we sort of knew there might be an issue, but the reality of it came rather suddenly. So I had to adjust my thinking and subsequent behaviors without having a lot of time to prepare—-or react to how this may or may not be affecting me personally.

    Please, I know Christians are commanded to think about the suffering of others, to look for ways to help and meet their needs—-and I say, go for it! Barb put it short and sweet: “please do not forget the poor.”

    And I particularly loved this line: “In reading this verse (James 1:27), bear in mind that ‘widows’ refers to all women who are bereft of a husband whether by the husband’s death, desertion or abusiveness.”

    Don’t forget the poor in purse AND the poor in spirit. Crushed, confused, condemned or simply cast aside. There are many ways to suffer that are not always financially based. It is one of the most serious ways to suffer, but it is not the only way, and not the only way that matters. If you have a full bank account but an empty soul inside, you have a real deal need.

    Anxiety can eat us up inside just like unpaid or unforeseen bills can eat up our bank accounts. And you matter more than money, and while money can ease some stress, it will not hold you in its arms and keep you safe. Someone much bigger than that can and will.

    And while we are commanded to look out for others, that never means to encourage or enable self-neglect. If you ARE a person in need, you are a real person in real need. You are not here to save the world (Someone else beat you to it), you are here to serve those in the world, as He leads and enables you. And you matter just as much to Him as your fellow human beings do.

    I don’t use my phone much for phone calls; I usually use writing methods. My rule of thumb is to reach out, maybe once more, but leave it there. And let them know you are here, but they don’t have to tell you anything, and you are not there to tell them what to do. Like Barb said, they may be being monitored or being checked on, so let the person in need take the lead. And let it go. Overall, let the Lord take the lead.

    Barb mentioned anxiety and numbness. It’s really weird and confusing how that works (or doesn’t work). A tidal wave of emotions may smother you in a moment, then numbness takes over in the next. There is more that I don’t understand, more that doesn’t make sense—-and that almost always increases anxiety. Or fear. Or panic attacks.

    I’ve been having an increase of nightmares as well, plus my chronic pain is kicking up, leading to bouts of fatigue that often come out of nowhere. Barb put it well, again: don’t be too hard on yourself. More people than you think are in your boat, or in a similar one.

    It’s ironic that Barb used one of my favorite verses near the end: “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.”

    The Bible said He won’t snuff out a flickering flame as well as not break a bruised reed. It was the former that I used in prayer recently. I don’t know how He does it—gently blowing on (or cradling) a very small spark, or a very low flame—so that it doesn’t’ go out, so that it eventually comes back to fullness. I can barely see that spark at times, but He knows how to keep it alive so I am not trapped in total darkness.

    And of course, He Himself is that Fire that burns in us, consuming our fears and connecting us closely to Him. You don’t need social media or a telephone or even His physical presence to keep Him close to your heart and mind!

    • Finding Answers

      Helovesme commented (12TH APRIL 2020 – 12:42 PM) “Don’t forget the poor in purse AND the poor in spirit. Crushed, confused, condemned or simply cast aside. There are many ways to suffer that are not always financially based. It is one of the most serious ways to suffer, but it is not the only way, and not the only way that matters……”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “The Bible said He won’t snuff out a flickering flame as well as not break a bruised reed……”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “….I don’t know how He does it—gently blowing on (or cradling) a very small spark, or a very low flame—so that it doesn’t’ go out, so that it eventually comes back to fullness…..”

      ^That.

      In the same comment, Helovesme commented “…..He Himself is that Fire that burns in us….”

      ^That.

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