Domestic Violence: Anchoring Sisters in Christ
Paula and two of her kids in the days when she needed to make changes. Now she helps other women recognize domestic violence.

“To admit that you’re in a marriage that’s abusive is horrifying within the church,” explains Paula, “You have to realize there’s a lot of shame around this, especially in the church. Oftentimes we’ll put on a mask just so people don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with.” (For twelve principles about helping those suffering from domestic violence, click here.

Educating the Church for Powerful Help

Since the 1990s, Paula made educating about domestic violence her life mission. (For tools for pastors and churches, click here.She speaks frequently across the nation in churches and conferences of all variety. The Focus Ministries website is loaded with resources, too—I do mean loaded. 

Sadly, Paula tells me domestic violence affects every “make and model,” crossing over ethnic, socio-economic, educational, family background, denominational, or any other factors. (For the commonly held  myths Paula shared with us, click here.)

What NOT to Say

Too often, when women finally do share a bit about their situation, the response increases their suffering.

  • Oh, it must be your fault.
  • You have this problem because you’re not reading scripture enough.
  • You’re not abiding by being submissive.
  • You’re not praying hard enough. 
  • Don’t you trust God that He’s going to fix this?”

There’s nothing like a little condemnation to make us wonder why we brought our pain to church! That’s not what women need at church. The Church is where we want to feel the safest. (For more about spiritual abuse, I suggest Athena Dean Holtz’s book, Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God.)

“Women really want to go to the Church and get support,” Paula states.

You’ll love Paula’s gentle, thoughtful way of answering all the questions I asked her. Find our interview by listening in on our podcast or click here for it and more. 

Domestic Violence: Anchoring Sisters in Christ

Especially in the Church, domestic violence is a topic we wish we could avoid. However, “a woman in the United States is battered by a partner every 12 to 15 seconds. Up to 6 million women are believed to be beaten in their homes each year. At least 30 percent of all murders of women in America are committed by intimate partners. And in the Christian community, one in every four women experiences family violence,” according to Focus Ministries.

Wise friends who stick through a life crisis involving domestic violence are like an anchor on a ship, according to Paula. (For local, trustworthy help, find the East Texas Crisis Center here.)

Like anchors, wise friends withstand corrosive elements. They hang in there. A wise friend will help ground a sister in Christ. 

Like an anchor, wise friends provide a stable influence, while giving their sister room to flow freely. Paula recommends stabilizing your sister without trying to control or direct her decisions. She must recognize her situation for herself and find the safe harbor she needs. 

The Lightbulb Moment

In our interview, Paula offered many questions and responses to help a sister—more than I can include here. (For our free weekly on tender topics, click here.)

“You don’t want to tell somebody, but you want them to discover so it becomes a part of them,” explains Paula. “A lightbulb goes on in them and that makes a difference.”

Watching for Signs of Domestic Violence

Sadly, many women suffer alone until danger forces us all to recognize the situation. (For more on how to be your family’s champion, click here.) Instead, we can be alert to the signs of domestic violence. 

Paula describes her own situation this way: “I became a non-person. No right to feelings, no right to opinions, no right to anything. And it was awful. It became even part of my physical well-being, part of my posture. I would stoop down and I couldn’t look at people in the eye because I was afraid they’d find out.” Additionally, a woman may leave a marriage like this six or seven times on average, reports Paula. 

“After a while, people who are trying to support and help give up on the person,” Paula says. “They walk away. Please don’t do that. Persevere.” (May I recommend two of my favorite places to start? Click for Alethia Counseling or Good Samaritan.)

We can encourage them to choose safety for their children as well. (For Paula’s story and more about how her kids suffered, too, click here.)

Could this be abuse?

What if a sister in Christ privately shares something surprising that’s going on in her home? Could this be abuse, you wonder. Now what? Since we’re not trained as counselors, we might feel afraid to speak. Listening is a great place to start to anchor a sister because so often their feelings are really shut down.

“Listen carefully. Then, ask them, well, how did you feel about that?” Beginning by listening well, we can help friends find comfort, strength, and resources.

The Questions Paula Asks

When a woman contacts Paula for help, she finds assessment questions helpful. Assessment questions allow the woman to pinpoint her own situation. Paula begins by helping women identify if they are victims of verbal or emotional abuse, something many women do not realize is included in domestic violence. 

  • When the two of you argue or have a fight, what happens?
  • How do you feel after an argument?
  • Are there times when you do not feel safe in your relationship?

Next, she takes the conversation a step further, identifying the physical aspects of danger. 

  • Have you ever been hit? Strangled? Pushed? Shoved? 
  • Has he ever punched holes in the walls?
  • Are any weapons in the home?

As chilling as those questions are, Paula said one more thing that stopped my in my tracks.

The Idol of Marriage

“Marriage almost becomes an idol,” says Paula. “What happens in the church is they become more concerned about the marriage than they do about the individual.” Yet, God always begins by focusing on individuals. 

“God deals with us individually. We KNOW God cares about the individual,” Paul emphasizes. “If you’re reading and this topic resonates with you because you’re wondering about your own marriage, please, let us assure you that you are valuable and worthy because God made you and He cares about you as an individual.”

May I add my encouragement to Paula’s? God cares about you and wants you to be safe. He cares about your kids and wants them to be safe, too. Please, dear one, if you have any concerns, please share them today with a trustworthy friend. Find your anchor! Dear sister, please don’t become invisible and isolated in your pain.

What a shame to sacrifice the individual that Jesus Himself died to save!

“Christ came to save people, not marriages,” says Paula. “I beg the churches to get educated and to learn how to appropriately handle this area of domestic violence.”

Creating Safety at Church

It really encourages me to know Paula speaks often to churches. Focus Ministries has several people you can call on for help at your church or personally. This should not be a taboo topic at church especially, my dear friends!

“Also, we do counsel by phone or email,” says Paula. “They can get ahold of us. We don’t charge for any of that.” They have specific tools for pastor’s wives.

“We try to put as much information on our website, so whether they contact us or not, they still get the information.” All their resources are confidential, all only a click away on their extensive website. They really understand how hard the first step is—telling someone trustworthy.

May we pray together?

Good Father in heaven, How we love you! You are our anchor in all the storms of life. Domestic violence breaks our hearts. Have mercy on us, O Lord. How can we stand by without realizing a dear sister and her children may be suffering and in danger? How can we overlook the pain of a man who resorts to violence at the expense of his own family? Teach us, O Lord, to speak Your healing truth over these crisis situations. Let Your Holy Spirit wash over us like living water to cleanse our souls and mend our hearts. Teach us to value ourselves the way You value each one of us. Give us courage and wisdom to speak up. Bless us now because it is Your heart’s desire to do so. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!

How has a sister in Christ anchored your heart? What do you wish your church would do to help you? Which topics should we talk about on Fireside Talk Radio?

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Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at Truth with a Texas Twang.

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