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Rose Saad

Have you ever wondered how your abusive relationship changes you? Domestic abuse often has a profound impact on an individual’s self-esteem and self-worth. It changes the entire set of values and morals that embodies who you are. A transformation occurs that isn’t always easy to spot.

I am using the word transformation because there’s a change from who you were before the relationship to who you are after the abuse. And there is a series of steps in which the abuser attempts to change your inner self, your “soul,” so that he can have complete control over your thoughts, your actions, and your behaviors.

As survivors, we need to understand how our abusers influence our transformation process. When we know about the techniques or tactics they use, we can then figure out how to stop the process and reclaim our true selves.

For this blog, we will look at how our abusers create an environment that fosters our transformation process.

Grooming

Deceptive words

It starts with grooming. Grooming is a deliberate attempt by an abuser to persuade you to do what he wishes*. He engages in behaviors that make you believe that he is doing what’s best for you. He showers you with attention. He tells you that you’re the right woman for him, his soulmate. He spends all his time with you. He’s kind, gentle, and thoughtful. He tries to meet all your physical and emotional needs. He might fix things around the house or cook dinner.

All these behaviors are meant to draw you into building an emotional connection so you can trust him. His grooming tactics in the early phase of the relationship are used to soften you into later compliance. Grooming makes you vulnerable and makes it easy to tolerate abuse because you have come to believe that he is a good person.

You might say grooming is showing affection for someone you care about, but when the intention for the behaviors is to manipulate that person for control, then grooming becomes abusive. If we pay close attention, grooming can be a red flag. If something is too good to be true, then it usually is.

Social isolation

Put your trust in God

Next comes social isolation. Its primary purpose is to cut off your support systems so that you depend solely on him. One of the techniques he may use is to create distrust between you and your family, friends, or community resources. As a result, he becomes the primary source for your physical and psychological support.

The following story from my blog at, https://www.rosesaad.com/wish-knew-know-now-understanding-abuse/ illustrates how my former husband socially isolated me:

In the early phase of our relationship, Xavier created an environment of distrust. For example, he would make comments like, “You can’t trust anyone” or “They’re out to get you.” This suspicion included the people we knew. According to him, my female friends were “hitting on him” and couldn’t be trusted. When they came to visit, he was cold toward them; he ignored them or would even leave the house. As a result, they felt uncomfortable and stopped visiting.

Even though he did not want me to trust others, he expected me to trust him. To create that trust, he said it was essential that we have no secrets from each other. He wanted to know about my childhood and past relationships. He would tell of a few of his encounter with his old girlfriends to lure me into sharing details of my previous sexual encounters.

The purpose of this type of communication is not only to isolate you but also to use your private sexual history as confirmation that you are morally loose. He can later use it to attack your self-esteem, which aids the transformation process.

Creating Doubt / Emotional Abuse

Do not lie or deceive one another

The next phase is creating doubt. The communication process becomes a tool for gaslighting. What your abuser says is not what he wants. What he says and what he means are totally different things. His actions don’t match his words. The aim here is to create confusion and disorientation so that it becomes easy for him to control you. Tactics used to gaslight include projection, which is when he shifts his behaviors on to you. For example, he might accuse you of cheating on him, when in reality he’s the one doing the cheating. Or he’ll call you a liar when he is the one lying. Other ways he can degrade your self-esteem are attacking what you are good at. For instance, if you are good at your job, he will find issues with it. He might remark that you are wasting your time with that job.

Most survivors are not aware of gaslighting. I didn’t know what the term meant at the time, but when I look back, I can see so many episodes in the relationship that were a clear case of gaslighting. For example, when he made a cruel joke or an insensitive remark, and I responded with, “I don’t like that,” his reply was that I was too sensitive or overreacting. Over time I started to believe that maybe he was right, maybe I really was too sensitive.

The overall purpose of these behaviors is to sow confusion within yourself, which makes it easy to accept his version of reality.

Intimidation and Threats / Physical Abuse

God hates violence

See the Power and Control Wheel for types of tactics use by abusers. The reason for these behaviors is to seal in compliance so that he can gain full control. Different abusers may use different methods, but the end goal is the same, which is power and control. The particular tactics used depends upon the abuser’s personality or what has worked for him in the past.

Over time, all these abusive tactics change the survivor. Her reality diminishes, and she accepts his reality as the truth about who she is. Her values of right and wrong are squashed, to be replaced by his version. When she realizes his abusive behaviors have transformed her, she feels helpless to change her situation. In my next blog, I will discuss how to tell that you have been transformed and how to reclaim yourself.

God will not let you fall

*How He Gets into Her Head by Don Hennessy

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June 14, 2019 0 comment
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My recent travels evoke a desire to share God’s splendor in his creation as seen through the pictures I took. The trip to Tilghman Island, MD and now Kona, Hawaii, have both reinforced my faith. Check out my article, Mental Health Rest, for the story of my trip to Tilghman. Now I would like to share how I saw God’s splendor in some of my snapshots of Kona.

God’s Splendor in the Sky

I can’t seem to let go of 2 AM, my second night in Kona. I woke up and had an urge to look through the windows. I lifted the blinds to see outside and found myself standing frozen in awe. Literally, I saw what appeared to be billions of stars of different sizes and brilliances! Their sparkling light show filled the entire sky. I have never in my whole life, except in the movies, seen so many stars clustered together. I ran for my iPhone and 50D Canon camera and attempted to take a picture, but to no avail. No camera could do it justice! All I could do was stand and marvel at how awe-inspiring God is.

Since I was unable to capture what I saw, I am sharing a picture taken from Keck Observatory by Andrew Richard Hara.

Keck Observatory, taken by Andrew Richard Hara

In Exodus 15:11 it states, “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD—glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?” (NLT). His splendor was in the stars. The heavens proclaim his glory and “the skies display his craftsmanship” (Psalm 19:1, NLT). The sky that night definitely displayed his artistry and left me with an experience I will always remember.

God’s Splendor in the Sunsets

As I said earlier, I wrote an article about my visit to Tilghman Island and the magnificent sunrises and sunsets. But there is no comparison to the sunsets in Kona. I was blown away by what I saw. The exciting thing is that the beauty of the sunset wasn’t when the sun was visible. It was when it had sunk below the horizon and could no longer be seen. That is when the variations of the different colors come to life. At times they were not visible to the eye but could still be captured through the camera lens. Also, each beach had its unique presentation of colors. What more, not only did the ocean display the grand splendor of God’s sunsets, but the mountains did likewise. The radiance of the colors surrounding the mountains was a sight to behold.

Hapuna Beach, Kona, Hawaii
Fairmont Hotel, Kona, Hawaii
Maunakea, Kona, Hawaii

God’s Splendor on the Mountain

The front of the house where I was staying faced Maunakea, a dormant volcanic mountain with an elevation of 14,000 feet. Maunakea hosts the Keck Observatory for studying the stars and is open to visitors. From my window, I could see the top of the mountain towering majestically over the clouds. Not only was it above the clouds, but the observatory was also visible. But what captivated my attention was the shadows of the clouds and the reflection of the sun when it hit the back of the mountain. When that happened, I could sense that something powerful was present.

Maunakea, Kona, Hawaii
Shadows of the Clouds

God’s Splendor in Us

I cannot show you a picture, but I want you to consider this: like the skies, sunsets, and mountains, you too were created to be a part of God’s splendor. We are part of his handiwork as stated in Psalm 139:13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (NIV).

To conclude, sometimes I forget how beautiful God’s creation is. But when I stop and focus on my surroundings and see nature doing its work, I am moved by the little details that God has woven together to display his magnificence. What about you?

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April 4, 2019 0 comment
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We take time off when we’re not feeling well, or we take a vacation to visit friends and family, but rarely we think about taking time away from home for a mental health rest. What I mean by this rest is to slow down our minds by being still in the moment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to slow down. My mind is constantly busy. I can be in a room filled with people and yet not be aware of anyone because my mind is somewhere else. As a result, I decided one day to get away, to slow down my thoughts so I could focus on prayer and listen for wisdom from God. During my time away, I learned three valuable lessons.

Tilghman Island getaway

For my mental health rest, I chose Tilghman Island, Maryland, mainly due to the pictures I saw on the internet. Tilghman Island is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live and is located where the Choptank River meets the Chesapeake Bay. The island is literally where they connect. At the point of connection, there is a bed-and-breakfast called the Black Walnut Point Inn.

Black Walnut Point Inn

When I arrived, I admit, I wasn’t impressed by the inn and the surrounding landscape because the pictures on the Internet didn’t reflect the current environment. They had been taken mainly during the summer. The scene during my visit was of winter: cold, windy with no snow, and the flowers all gone. Furthermore, the inn is a historical site owned by the state. Most of the interior was built in 1847. Not much has changed, and the caretakers are not allowed to make any structural modifications. I personally prefer contemporary interior decor.

I soon changed my attitude when I realized the building wasn’t the reason why people chose the inn. It was the view! I was mesmerized by the sunrises and sunsets and overpowered by the colors I saw. There were pink and purple hues during dawn and yellows and reds at sunset. All I could do was stare at the sky.

Sunrise at Black Walnut Point Inn
Sunset at Black Walnut Point Inn

Lesson 1: I can’t slow down until I explore my environment

Now let’s go back to the lessons learned. First, my brain has to immerse itself in my environment before it can slow down. There was so much beauty around me that my mind got distracted. I felt like a kid in a candy store who is excited to see the different kinds of candies and doesn’t want to leave until she has tried each flavor. My mind was so diverted that I couldn’t say which was the most important reason for my coming here. I had to see everything before I left.

Instead of slowing down mentally, I went into a picture-taking mode. All I wanted to do was find new things to take pictures off. I even decided to walk through the thick marsh to look for swans, even though I am terrified of snakes. I didn’t find any swans, but my new-found courage to walk through the swamp took me by surprise.

Looking for swans

Lesson 2: Focus on the images that interest the mind

After exploring the area, I realized I needed to focus on one particular aspect of the place that captured my mind. For example, there were the sunrises and sunsets I’d mentioned earlier, but the most thought-provoking place was the site of a huge cross. The cross is at Black Walnut Point, the southernmost part of the island, where the Choptank River and the Chesapeake Bay come together. I don’t know, and I didn’t think to ask, why the cross was placed at that spot.

The merger of the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay

I began to leave behind my hectic thoughts and enjoy the majestic splendor of God. Gratitude came alive. With a joyous heart, I started to thank God for being there, for allowing me to immerse myself among his magnificent works. With my grateful heart, I poured out my prayers and petitions to him as an overwhelming sense of calmness came over me.

Immersed into God’s Creation

Lesson 3: Be still to listen for God’s voice

As I stood still under the cross with the sunlight striking the left side of my face, and the river and bay before me I felt God telling me to pay attention to see how this moment, this image of the environment, related to my present life. It was an analogy for my life. Ahead of me was this body of water which represents all my fears. The fears of the unknown. Yes, I have a lot of unknowns in my life. The fear of rejection, failure, lack of confidence, the evils of the world and so forth—they all prevent me from moving forward and sometimes stop me from accepting God’s truths about my life.

Under the Cross

The cross, on the other hand, represents love, forgiveness, hope, triumph, and the assurance that I am never alone. I am part of God’s family. Because of his Son’s suffering on the cross, I can conquer any difficulty.

The sunlight that was radiating over my face represented God’s light. A light so powerful that it can banish any darkness. A light that allows me to shine regardless of all the mistakes and messes I made of my life.

I felt God speaking to my heart and saying: Rose, because of the cross, you are with me. I have chosen you to shine. Step into my light. I know you’re fearful of what is ahead, just like this body of water. It looks enormous, but I am still greater. My light is greater than any darkness you have ever feared. I will help you overcome your fears and the obstacles that that block my light. What a rejuvenating mental health experience! But I had to keep still so that my senses could engage in that experience.

As I drove back home, I felt a sense of freedom listening to the below song, Step into the Light by Passion.

Step into the Light

Life bombards us with decisions that we have to make every day. It is important to find time to take a mental health rest to declutter our minds and listen for God’s voice. That might mean going away from our familiar environments. The lesson for all of us is that we can’t hear God speak to our hearts if we don’t slow down and keep still. Check out this link for scriptures about stillness and rest.

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February 25, 2019 2 comments
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I hesitated to share my self-reflection for 2018. But as I look back, I see that gratitude builds faith. Writing down what I am grateful for and recounting all the wonderful things Jesus has done for me has been a source of comfort and hope when I get stuck in life’s difficult challenges. Remembering what God has accomplished for my life renews my commitment to hold on to my faith as a Christian.

Follow Me

I want to share what I am thankful for as I enter into 2019. Frist, sharing fills my soul with gratitude and shuts out the negative voices that say that my efforts are not working. My mindset has always focused on the future—on what I should be doing and what I am not doing. As a result, I missed a few opportunities along the way. Some might say I missed the mark and got stuck in “what I should have done.”

Being grateful for what has already occurred validates that I am on the right track. It redirects me to look at the present to see what is already there rather than looking back at what should have been. It reminds me not to be discouraged and to continue with what I am doing. Sharing my successes not only strengthens my faith, but it might also help others to self-reflect and fill themselves with gratitude for what God is doing in their lives.

Thankful for Blessings

As I look back, a lot of great things have happened that I should be thankful for. I will list a few and will also share some of my hopes and dreams for 2019. First, I thank God for giving up his only son so that I could be a part of his family. It is in his family that I can receive his love and grace. I am very privileged to be in a church family that loves me for who I am and encourages me to keep making Jesus the Lord of my life. I am thankful for their love, their physical care, their spiritual and emotional support over the years.

I am thankful for my children. Their love for others and willingness to help others fill my heart with joy. They are navigating their path to discover who they are and who they are meant to be. It takes maturity to have the insight in knowing your strengths and limits and confronting the barriers to self-discovery.  And that’s what they have been doing from an early age. I am very proud of who they are and who they will become. At times I feel guilty for pulling them into my world. I know I don’t have the power to protect them from the negativity I might encounter as a domestic violence advocate, but I am thankful for their support as I continue to walk this path.

I am Here

The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” applies to my experience as a divorced and single mother taking care of three children. I am often asked, “How do you do it?” The answer is simple: I’m not doing it alone. Church family, in-laws, and biological relatives have all played a role. Today I want to thank the Bernards for standing in as my maternal family. (I am withholding first names to protect their privacy). To the Bernards, the Dennises, the Johnsons, and the Sirleafs, I thank God for giving you wisdom and compassion to provide, physical, emotional, and financial support for my family. As I reflect, you all have been a part of most of my adult life. I will always cherish the memories I make with you all as long as I live.

My Village

I am thankful for my book, A Path to Hope. To be honest, I have experienced a lot of discouragement due to difficulties in marketing the book. I didn’t write the book to make money, although an increase in sales would repay some of the hard work that was done to make the book a reality. At times I can get stuck in what should have happened with the book when I should be celebrating the little successes. For example, a few days ago I received an email from a reader who told me that my “blog and book was invaluable.” I was excited at first, but instead of rejoicing, my mind shifted to the “what should have been.” This 2019, I am going to embrace small successes like that because they help me break down the walls of negative thoughts that distract me from my goals.

gratitude
rosesaad.com

I will strive to put into practice Zechariah 4:10 that states, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” (New Living Translation). Yes, I will celebrate every little step because God rejoices when he sees that I am doing his work.

gratitude
Embrace Small Steps

I am filled with gratitude for the Path to Hope first event in 2018, A Cry for Help. It was a very successful workshop!  As I have stated in previous posts, my mission is to increase awareness of domestic violence and its effects on families and to share information about resources that can be used to help victims. That was the goal of the workshop, and I am pleased to say that it was achieved! 

gratitude
A Path to Hope

I will be organizing another workshop this year. This will be a small step towards my desire to create a non-profit to empower the lives of Christian women who have experienced domestic violence, through education, peer and spiritual support.

I am also excited to announce the first A Path to Hope support group will be launched in February! More information to come soon.

All these experiences reinforced that God is taking care of me and will continue to meet my needs. He will send the people and resources I need to keep doing his will. As I speak, he is actively sending emotional support as evidenced by new relationships on social media and though other contacts with people with the same passion and mission as mine. I am thankful for my new friendships.

This 2019, as I stated earlier, I am going to enjoy living in the moment, the now, and will celebrate every little success along the way as I walk the path that God has set for me. With a thankful heart, I can move mountains.  

What about you? What are you grateful for? You probably have your own list of what God has done and is doing to help build your faith. 

As Psalm 106:1 reminds us, “Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

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January 13, 2019 2 comments
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I first heard about Dr. Tamara O’Neil’s brutal slaying from my daughter. She called to ask me if I was part of the conversation on Twitter. My response was, in effect (I didn’t verbalize my thoughts to her), “I don’t care.” But after a couple of minutes, my mind became flooded with emotions. These emotions were triggered by the fact that a lot of domestic violence cases are sensationalized on social media and in the news. When someone is killed by an abusive partner, that is when domestic violence is front-page news. After a couple of days, the topic is pushed back and forgotten. To prove my point, I am writing this blog a few weeks after O’Neil’s murder, and domestic violence is no longer a priority in the news.

This leads me to ask myself “Are most people really interested in bringing about change?” From my observation, some people use the dramatization of physical violence on the media to attract viewers to promote a particular political agenda, such as gun control. For example, the NewYork Times article about the death of Dr. O’Neil dealt mainly with gun control. She was mentioned only briefly.

I am not trying to dismiss the fact that, according to that article, women are five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence relationship when guns are present.

Yes, I do agree we need gun control. It doesn’t make sense  to purchase guns whose primary purpose is to kill people and not animals. On the other hand, we need to remember that many abusers have killed their partners without the use of firearms. Therefore, not owning a gun will not stop abuse.

Discussing the issues around firearms is essential, but when someone is killed by their partner, domestic violence should be the primary focus. When the argument shifts to gun control or some other political interest, it diminishes the victim’s story.

For those social and commercial news media outlets who broadcast the story, listing links or numbers to call about domestic violence is not enough. I believe the media should have the responsibility of defining domestic violence and showing how it really looks like. Or they should interview experts who could inform the public about the dynamics of abuse. Don’t we as parents use a crisis to teach our children about the conflict at hand? For example, when our kids are bullied at school or experience racial inequality in our community, don’t we use those incidents to address what to do, or talkabout self-acceptance? That’s what I did.

I also believe that it’s crucial to consider the physical and psychological safety of the victims and their families and other survivors that are watching.

Take the case of Andrea Grinage. Her boyfriend poured a flammable liquid on her body and set her on fire, inflicting her with seventy-five percent burns. Andrea was seven months pregnant at the time of the incident. Months later wusa9 had a follow-up interview with her. What I found troubling about the interview, as in other cases like this, was its timing and lack of concern for the safety of the victim. Andrea was still in the process of physical healing. She was scheduled for more surgeries. Even though some of the operations were successful, she still faced a long and difficult path to full recovery. In my opinion, she needed more time to recover.

Second, during the time of her interview, her assailant’s trial was postponed due to pending DNA results. I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand how a DNA test was going to change the fact that he set her on fire. The point here is that her safety was still at risk and she was being asked to share information that might compromise that safety. At one point during the interview, she was asked if her boyfriend had physically assaulted her before the incident. She refused to answer the question because his trial was still pending.

I understand Andrea wanted to share her story to help others, but the interviewer should have recognized that she needed time to heal. Telling her story in her present stage of recovery might not be helpful for many who are watching. For me, it created anger and a fear for her life. My anger was due to the insensitivity of the media for not allowing her the time she needed to process the impact of the violence as she sought physical and emotional healing.

When the media dramatize domestic violence to attract viewers, they are forsaking the opportunity to educate the public and inspire them to take action. For survivors who might be watching the dramatization of the assault, it might evoke fear, shame, and outrage. There are no real takeaways or answers that might help in understanding the impact of abuse on a person’s wellbeingand providing the resources to heal. However, it should be obvious that the sensational headlines are not helpful.

If the media are genuinely interested in bringing about change, then yes, domestic violence education is the first step. As they educate the public, they should also call upon the people to take action. Taking action against domestic violence is even more important as talking about it. Organizations that have the political and financial resources should support advocates who are diligently working to bring change. Organizations that are advocating to change the laws at the state and national level to protect the victims and hold perpetrators responsible should be given the resources they need to succeed.

Domestic violence awareness should not be a once-a-year topic or wait until someone dies. Every October the issue is addressed. The sad thing is that, even during that one month, the events that are organized by dedicated advocates are poorly attended. I can attest to that. I held a workshop that was specially geared towards educating the church about domestic violence. Thirty-five people attended that event. I have been to similar events hosted by local and state organizations that had even smaller numbers.

As we watch the stories of Dr. Tamara O’Neil and Andrea Grinage in the media, we can turn our outrage into resolve to bring about change. We can begin by educating ourselves about effective ways of helping victims. Check out my blogs A Call for Action and Who’s Going to Speak Up? and the links below to learn about the basic steps in helping survivors of domestic violence. 

https://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/12-things-everyone-help-victims-domestic-violence

https://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/

https://youtu.be/ElJxUVJ8blw
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December 18, 2018 2 comments
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In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month last October, I was privileged to participate in several events as an organizer and speaker. As I reflected on the themes of these events, I came to recognize that we must address how to help the abused Christian woman. As a result of this realization, I felt a need to write a blog that focuses on the specific needs of the abused woman coming to the church for help. I will list a few practical steps for anyone who wants to help.

The content of this blog can be found in chapter eight of my book, A Path to Hope. I wrote this from my understanding of what was needed by those who seek help from the church.

The types of violence and their responses are similar for all women, whether or not they are members of a religious institution. But it is important to note that for the Christian woman, faith plays a central role in how she responds to the violence. Her religious beliefs can influence or discourage her to seek help within the secular community. Therefore, it is vital to at least acknowledge her faith as you help her.

 Key points to remember

Before one tries to help, though, one requires some understanding of domestic violence and its impact on the woman’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It is equally important to note that when a woman comes to you for help, the abuse has transformed her. Most women that I talked to, as well as myself, felt a loss of self as a result of the abuse. The belittling and degrading at home inevitably damages every woman’s self-esteem.

Also, it is important to note that she tried to fix the problem by herself. For example, she may have tried to satisfy her partner’s every demand. But fulfilling his desires didn’t stop the abuse.

She might have sought help outside the home; for example, she might have tried counseling, with no success. Research shows that couples counseling is not helpful. In many cases, the abuse becomes worse. What she reveals during the counseling sessions might be used against her back home.

Coming to the Church

When the abused woman seeks help from the church, it means she is beginning to open up about the relationship at home. She might have kept the abuse a secret for a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons could be the fear of being blamed for her husband’s behavior or the failure of the marriage.

Asking for help, however, does not mean that she wishes to leave the marriage. She might simply want you to help change his behaviors. She might be thinking, “Maybe if he listens to someone, he will stop hurting me”. Most women believe that any man can change his actions if he gets the proper help.

On the other hand, perhaps she does wish to leave the relationship and is seeking a supportive network. Remember the ultimate decision is hers to make, and that whatever she chooses, you (the reader) must be prepared to assist her in that decision.

What to do

Listen to her story

Listen to her story with a non-judgmental attitude. Remember, it took courage for her to come to you! Her story might not be clear and might be confusing to some people, including herself. How can her partner who says he loves her behave in this manner? Regardless of her lack of clarity, she needs someone to accept her story. She is not over-reacting, nor is she exaggerating the details. In many cases, she is seeking to understand what is happening at home.

Validate her experience

Validate the story. Validation is the first step to empowerment. The woman may want you to validate that her husband’s behaviors are wrong and are hurting the family. As I stated earlier, if you want to help her, you must have an understanding of domestic violence and its impact. Bad advice may reduce her ability to cope and weaken her ability to obtain help.

Clarify her experience

She is also seeking clarification about her partner’s behaviors. Give the behaviors a name. It is abuse and should be called out. I remember being confused about my ex-husband’s abusive actions. One book that was an eye-opener for me, and confirmed that it wasn’t me who was the problem, was Patricia Evans’ The Verbally Abusive Relationship. This book allowed me to recognize some of the motives behind my husband’s actions. That awareness freed me from feeling that I was alone and assured me I wasn’t crazy.

As she seeks clarity, she may not understand or may be in denial that she is in an abusive relationship. Or she may begin to recognize that something is wrong with her relationship but may not understand its impact. She may need to talk but is not ready to make changes in her life. She needs time to process what is happening. This phase is awkward for most people because they want to explore their options. Help her to find clarity. Ask open-ended questions. For example, ask her, “What happened?” “Does it make sense?”

Safety is always first

As she begins to open up, ask about her safety. Safety should be the first priority when you start to help the woman. Is her relationship safe? Does she believe he will protect her? Does she feel her life is in danger? Or, ask are you afraid of him? Does he have any weapons in the house?  If she has any fear regarding her or her children’s safety, she needs a plan. Learn about the components of a safety plan. Help her develop her plan. Hold her accountable for following the plan.

Confidentiality is required

Keep her story private. Do not advise to tell her husband about her plans, especially if she is contemplating leaving the relationship. Christian women are advised to ask the permission of their husbands before making any decision in the household. If they don’t, they are made to feel that their behavior is sinful and needs repentance. But when the physical and emotional safety of the woman and her children are imperiled, then confidentiality is a must.

 Make referrals

Do not hesitate to refer the woman to secular resources that could help her. Guide her to appropriate resources (e.g., the police, victims’ programs, crisis hotlines, legal aid, shelters, social services, immigration, state department, etc.). Help her to navigate these resources.

The secular community offers the necessary legal, medical, and other professional resources to protect the woman and her family. Few churches have the means to provide the many different types of help that an abused woman may require.

Encourage her to participate in a support group where she can express her true feelings without fear or criticism. A support group is essential to validate her experience and help her realize that she is not alone. In these groups, she can learn how others were able to cope and break free.

Offer emotional and physical support

Encourage her to believe in herself, to believe that she is capable of making the right choice. She has the power to stay or leave. Emphasize her strengths. Reassure her that you are there to help her and will support her, regardless of whether she chooses to stay in the relationship or leave.

Here are some suggestions from Rev. Zeke Wharton, listed in A Path to Hope:

Churches can provide a variety of tangible means of support for a woman trying to escape or heal from an abusive situation. “The abused woman can benefit from very practical acts of kindness by those in her church community—folks regularly mowing her grass, cooking her meals that could be stored in the freezer, and helping her create and manage a budget while she is dealing with the emotional consequences of abuse. In another situation, babysitting and a place to occasionally spend the night are strategic things that they can do.”

To conclude, anyone can use these practical means to help. But keep in mind that helping means commitment. Changing the situation must be done on her timetable, not yours. Ask yourself, “Am I prepared to be there for the long haul?” It is also essential to remember that your safety and the safety of the woman has the highest priority; therefore, encourage her to seek secular help. Know your limits and where the resources are. Check these resources at http://ncadv.org/learn-more/resources. Remember, breaking free from abuse cannot be done alone. Everyone needs help from someone.

Galatians 6: 2, Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ (NLT).

 Philippians 2:4, Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too (NT)).

What Does the Bible Say about Abuse?

The Abused Christian Woman: Understanding Her Dilemma

 

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November 13, 2018 0 comment
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“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” Romans 8:24. I recently read this passage, and it hit home. It states that you hope for things that you don’t yet see—which is like praying for things you want to come to pass. When hope becomes reality, it ceases to be hope, nevertheless, we have to keep it alive.

As I reflect, my brain prefers the phrase, “I am hoping for” rather than “I am praying for.” Somehow the “hoping for” brings life. When I say these words, I can feel within me a positive level of energy and an assurance that change will come. “I am hoping for” keeps me confident and reassures me that I can achieve my goals and dreams. It also serves as a motivator to keep trying again when things don’t work out as I had expected. So, I decided to change from saying, “I am praying for” to “I am hoping for.”

What am I “hoping for?” They are too numerous to count! I hope that my children will succeed professionally, return to the foundation of their faith, take responsibility for their actions, marry godly people and serve the poor. I hope that I become an inspirational speaker to help empower abused women to change their lives. I hope to sell my book, A Path to Hope and create a nonprofit named after the book, to increase awareness of domestic violence and its effects on families, and to share information about strategies and resources that can be used to help victims of domestic violence. I hope that I can financially support myself and find a God-fearing man, one who is fun-loving and an encourager who genuinely loves me. My current hope is that my workshop, A Cry for Help, will make a difference and be the beginning of great things to come.

We all need hope. Without hope, life cannot go on. The good news here is, God wants each of us to be carriers of hope. Therefore, he made it clear how to get it and how to keep it alive. Now I will try to show you how to get it and keep it alive.

Hope comes from God

Romans 15:13 states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. I love this passage. It is used on the dedication page of my book and website banner, rosesaad.com. We can’t get hope on our own because it comes from God. God is the source of our hope. Hope is his secret pathway to him. But, he knew that it was going to be difficult for us to obtain it on our own, so he made Jesus as our forerunner, as explained in Hebrews 6:20. He stands on our behalf to help us see that what we hope for will indeed come to pass.

What about you? What are you “hoping for?” Are you going to the mediator? When we experience difficulties as we break free from abuse and other life challenges, we have to go to the middleman or mediator that God has designated for us to find hope. Hope will keep us focused as we seek help to change our situation.

Wait patiently for hope.

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). When we wait patiently, we keep hope alive. But it is difficult to wait patiently. Since I like to be in control and hate to wait, I find myself consistently stuck in the patience phase.

I am still waiting to see my hope to be a motivator for women who are experiencing abuse come to reality. In other areas of my life, it seems that everything is moving at a snail’s pace as I attempt to sell my book; maintain my blog (not receiving feedback is very discouraging); find the mentorship and resources to achieve my goals as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence; and to create my non-profit. God knew this stalled state would happen; for that reason, he made provision to help us wait.

Hold on to God’s promises as you wait.

When we start doubting, when our confidence falters, and we stop hoping or praying, God’s Holy Spirit can intervene and come to our rescue. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses by taking over our prayers so that we can keep hope alive. But the tricky part is that “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

And here is where we get trapped. For what, precisely, is the will of God? Well, when we hope for things to happen, it can’t be contrary to God’s word. For example, we cannot hope for the death of the person who wronged us. (Some writers of Psalms did this, but I guess it was before Jesus’s example.) God’s hope is pure and not the self-seeking hope that man devises. Nor can we follow our abusers’ sinful behaviors and hope that it will stop the abuse. We cannot follow someone’s sinful behavior and believe that we are following God’s will.

There are tons of promises in the scriptures. For example, Romans 8:28, states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. God will work for the good in all that I do. It might not be according to my expectations of what I hoped for, but whatever he does, it will be good for me.

Remember, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). When he says he is going to work for your good, believe it. Every difficult situation you experienced in life has molded you for this present state you are now in. There is always a positive component to your most difficult experience. It might be the recognition of your inner strength, your resiliency as an overcomer. Or, your challenges were a motivator to seek God with all your heart, mind, and strength.

And when you have left behind your abusive relationship or any hardship of your old life, remember the end of the verse that started the previous paragraph: “we… who take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” When you can see God working in your life, you are able to grasp the hope that he has already given you. Let this hope keep you going!

Faith is needed to keep hope alive.

To keep hope alive, faith is needed. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith means the confidence to assure yourself that the thing you’re hoping for, the thing you cannot yet see is real. Where there is faith, there is hope. Or rather, where there is hope, faith is pulling it along. Hope is always present, but it needs faith to validate its presence. Without faith, hope will cease to exist. Take a second to reflect on that thought.

We all struggle with our faith. We all might ask ourselves, Do I have enough faith? God is not asking us to have a HUGE amount of faith. Jesus states in Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Recently, I saw an example of what a little faith looks like. A friend was wearing a locket with a mustard seed in a tiny glass bottle. I was amazed to see how small the seed was. I had to stare at the bottle to find it. It looked like a grain of sand. Yes, this is the size of all the faith we need. (But of course, some people don’t even have that much faith- Matthew 8:28).

Use hope as an anchor for your soul.

To stay connected to hope, you have to use it to anchor your soul. As told in Hebrews 6:19, hope keeps you firm and secure. Just as when a ship is at anchor or tied to the dock, it will not be pulled away by the wind. Hope as your anchor will keep you secure when the storms of life come your way.

Today, I want to encourage you to follow God’s instructions on how to keep hope alive. When it seems like things are not working out as you had anticipated, he wants you to hold on to hope. When you are feeling that you can’t get away from your abusive relationship, or if you have left the relationship but the burdens of caring for yourself and your children are weighing you down, you still can’t lose hope. Hope is the fire that will sustain your soul and restore your belief that change will come.

 

 

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August 14, 2018 7 comments
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 I was told by a friend that readers want to know more about the author of the blog. So here we are, I am a deep thinker and brutally honest with my thoughts. Tons of thoughts flood my mind daily. At times they are entangled in a ball. I have to self-reflect to untangle them to make sense. I am going to share one belief or thinking that dominates my mind.

“You are not good enough” is a train of thought that has been evident throughout my entire life, from childhood, and as an adult. The problem here is, I can’t recall hearing that statement as a child. Yet, my brain is consistently feeding me those words whether consciously or subconsciously. This type of thinking reflects how I view the outcomes of the activities that I am engaged in, from writing blogs to public speaking, or interacting on a personal level with others. Embedded in my psyche and not fully aware of the impact, I have come to believe that that statement is true.

My response to a Catholic nun who did a great review on her social media sites for my book, A Path to Hope, is a recent example of my “not good enough” thinking.  When I asked her to write a review on Amazon and did not hear from her, I arrived at the assumption that she did not reply to my email because I messed up by asking her. I berated myself with, “You shouldn’t have asked her” and began to experience a lot of negative emotions. But the underlying feeling that came to the surface as the result of this interaction was the feeling of “You are not good enough.” It was subtle and only recognizable after self-reflection.

“Being good enough” means perfection. It has no flaws. The disappointments encountered as I walked on the journey of life is becoming a tool to teach me that perfectionism doesn’t exist. It only exists in ones’ mind. Due to this truth, I am forced to change my perception of what “good enough” is.

I have come to realize that being good enough means that I did my best and there’s nothing I could have done at that moment that would have made the outcome different. I used all the resources available, and I am to accept and be proud that I was able to accomplish what I set out to do.

I am also beginning to recognize that my perception of the outcome of the activities of what I perceived to be “good” is not the key. Instead, it is the process that counts. It is in the process that I will grow and mature and make the necessary changes for success. The end goal might be different from my expectations. Nevertheless, the process will shape me and teach me life’s lessons. Therefore, I will have to hold on to this truth and not the imagined outcome.

What about you? What thoughts dominate your mind?

Proverbs 4:23, Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (NLT)

Check out what the bible say about controlling your thoughts and positive affirmations for women.

 

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August 6, 2018 0 comment
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To move forward and heal from a domestic abuse relationship, or any painful life experience, we have to go back to the past to see how it affects our present. Self-reflection is required to start the healing process. This means looking back to see how these painful experiences have impaired our thinking. The hard work will be to change those thoughts that keep us from healing.

As Christians, we have the incomparable power of God’s word to help us change our perceptions of painful experiences. For this blog, my primary focus is the spiritual aspect of breaking free from the thoughts that keep us stuck. These behaviors and beliefs that stop us from changing are what the scriptures call “strongholds.” Our strongholds can control our lives and make us susceptible to dangerous situations, such as abusive relationships.

What are Strongholds?

In the spiritual sense, strongholds are the walls that Satan uses to hold us captive. These walls keep us from understanding how God can change us from the inside out and allow us to do his work.

Strongholds stop us from achieving the plans God has for us. It stalls our spiritual growth and maturity and prevents us from transforming into his new creation.

For most of us, our emotions and emotional reactions are where Satan manipulates us to build his stronghold. He exploits our anxieties, fears, mistrust, lack of confidence, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, envy, and many other emotions. These emotions might not be evident as we interact with others. We might not even be aware of how they hinder our ability to change. This ignorance allows Satan to fortify his walls, making it difficult to tear them down. As a result, we feel trapped.

Self-reflection is Required to Identify Strongholds

As I self-reflect, I am able to identify two significant strongholds within my Christian life. They are a lack of trust and a feeling of insignificance. When I became a Christian, I had difficulties surrendering to and trusting God. It didn’t mean that I didn’t believe him or his word. My lack of trust didn’t stop me from changing some of the behaviors that were contrary to his word—for example, gossiping or revenging when someone did me wrong. I tried to do the right things, yet I found it hard to let go of situations that were beyond my control.

The things that were beyond my control required trust in God. The way I dealt with them was to prepare for failure. When things didn’t work out as I expected, and since I had emotionally prepared myself to fail, it was easy to shrug it off and try something different. There was no residue of negative emotions such as bitterness. Instead, I felt a strong sense of motivation and the determination to try something new.

The feeling of insignificance, my second stronghold, has been a challenge to break. Piggybacking on this feeling is insecurity and lack of confidence. These emotional reactions influence my interactions with others. I am always analyzing other people’s responses to my presence. I allow them to define my self-respect. If they respond in a way I think is negative, I internalize those negative feelings. As a Christian, I am still working hard to break through that wall.

How to Break Strongholds

First, we have to become aware that God has given us the tools or weapons to destroy them. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 states, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (NIV).

We must develop the conviction that God has provided the weapons to fight, and they have the spiritual power to break down any barriers set by ourselves and others.

On the other hand, to achieve victory with our weapons, we have to identify the target—which means we have to recognize our strongholds. Furthermore, to effectively demolish them, we have to find the root or foundations of those strongholds and bring them down with God’s weapons.

For me, finding the root took a lot of prayer and self-reflection. When I was nine years old, my mother developed complications during the labor and delivery of my brother. On the way to the hospital, I stopped in the middle of a path and knelt down and prayed to God to let my mother live. After praying, I felt God’s presence. I thought that he had heard my prayer and would answer it. I walked the rest of the way imagining all the fun things my mother and I would do together after her discharge from the hospital.

After a brief visit with her, I skipped back home. A couple of hours later, while playing next door, I heard loud cries coming from my house but ignored them. I said to myself, “Why are they crying? My mother is OK.” I went home later and found out that my mother had died. What a shock! I did not cry. Instead, I felt a sense of anger and disappointment towards God.

This anger and disappointment towards God became the foundation of my lack of trust. I didn’t consciously tell others or say to myself, “I don’t trust God,” but that lack of confidence was embedded deeply in my heart and evident in my actions. For example, in all of my plans, there were always alternatives in case plan A didn’t work out.

The root cause of my feeling of insignificance also started during early childhood. I was told that my father didn’t want a child. When I was a preemie lying in an incubator, my father took one look and said, “That thing will not survive.” He later married and did not reveal to his wife that he already had a daughter. Not having a relationship with his new family made me feel as if I didn’t exist. And that led to the feeling of insignificance.

This feeling of insignificance was transferred to my adult and married life and has had an enormous impact on my self-image. For example, in my abusive marriage, one of the tactics used by my husband was to walk into the room, and when I said “Hi,” past me and walk by as if I wasn’t present. This behavior triggered the same feeling of insignificance conveyed by my father.

Apply God’s Truth

After finding the roots of the stronghold, we demolish those roots by attacking them with God’s truth. John 8:32 states, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Replace the lies with the truth.

As I return to those childhood experiences, the reality is that God was there, and he took care of me and protected me. He was there when bad things happened and when I didn’t understand the reason for those unfortunate events.

In Isaiah 46:3–4, the writer states that God was there since you were born. He “upheld you” and “carried you.” And he promises to carry you even when your hair becomes gray. He will “sustain” you and “rescue” you.

Psalm 139:13–15 states, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb” (NLT).

As I applied these truths to my life, it awakened the realization that God was present during the painful events of my life, and he used them to lead me to reach out to him. The truth is, he allowed me to survive as a preemie in an environment that had no sophisticated technology to support a premature birth. And he protected me from harm even when I didn’t have a mother or father. When I can visualize God protecting me, it strengthens my faith. My lack of faith leads to lack of trust. But when my faith is increased, I am able to break my strongholds.

For my insignificance stronghold, many scriptures talk about our worth. For example, Matthew 10:29–31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (NIV).

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).

James 1:18: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession” (NLT).

 Exodus 9:16: “But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth” (NLT).

These scriptures tell the truth about God’s view of me. I am part of God’s masterpiece. My piece may be a small part, but it has a place in his magnificent work of art. Without me the picture is incomplete. When completed, it radiates his glory. Yes, I am important!

Yes, Forgive

After applying God’s truths, we also have to forgive and let go of all the emotions that keep us chained within the strongholds. The facts of the event that started the hold on us will also help us to forgive.

For example, I had to go back and view the events of my early life and apply the truth. My father and mother were very young when they met. He just wanted to have fun, and not interested in any kind of serious relationship. And he definitely did not want a child. In his culture marriages were arranged by the family. Marrying a black woman could have led his family to disown him. I used those truths to find compassion for my father and forgive him. When I did that, I was able to break the walls and set free the emotions that held me captive. This process took time.

 Build New Walls

After breaking the walls and foundation, we have to build new walls using God’s tools to stop Satan from having an opportunity to rebuild.

Matthew 12:43-45 states, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (NIV).

We have to protect ourselves. We can’t afford to keep an empty space or else we become easy targets for Satan. Some of the tools we can use to build our new walls are found in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. We can grow strong walls when we are filled with the fruits of the spirit.

Change the Way You Think

To stop Satan from attacking our new home, we also need to change the way we think. Our thoughts trigger our emotions; therefore, we have to change the way we think. We can change the way we think by first accepting the truth of Proverbs 4:23, which states, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT).

Do not let every thought run freely in your mind. Choose carefully what you want to think about. 2 Corinthians 10:5 states, “…we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

We make our thoughts obedient to Christ by thinking about what Paul listed in Philippians 4:8–9. He wants you to “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). He wants us to imitate him. When we do, we will receive God’s peace. With God’s peace Satan will have no power to break our walls down.

Check out these blogs for changing negative thoughts and what to avoid. Remember, as Christians, we are instructed by Paul on how to replace our negative thoughts.

Regardless of our past experiences, such as abuse, God’s word has the power to help us break any hold caused by those experiences. But we will have to do the hard work to change our thoughts. When we are obedient to thinking like Christ, we have the power to break our strongholds and demolish Satan’s ability to keep us captive.

Image: Jon Shireman

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July 13, 2018 0 comment
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I will be presenting at The People’s Baptist Church Domestic Violence Conference in Maryland on October 13, 2018. The title of the conference is, “Who’s Going to Speak Up?” This title is appropriate given the recent #MeToo movement. The public response to MeToo demonstrates the power to change attitudes when voices are united. It took one person to speak out against the crime of sexual harassment and assaults against women, and that voice has been joined by countless thousands of other voices to create a mighty chorus swelling across the land.

What about domestic violence within the church? Who’s going to speak up? The answer is simple: we will. Because if we don’t, who will? Everyone from family members to abused victims, the church and the community at large, all have the moral and legal responsibility to speak up when others are suffering from domestic violence.

First, speaking up starts within the family. Most family members are aware of the abuser’s behaviors. Behaviors like being cruel to animals, becoming easily agitated by others, blaming others for his actions, and swearing at family members are some of the actions of an abuser. When abuse occurs in an intimate relationship, some families cover it up by discouraging the victim from calling the police. The woman might be told, “You shouldn’t tell anyone because it will damage the family’s reputation.” She might hear other dismissive remarks such as, “That’s how men are” or “I went through the same thing.”

I believe the family has the responsibility to speak up against any member that violates the rights of others. If a family member is an abuser, then the rest of the family should encourage that person to seek help to change his violent behavior. But if he refuses to change, then he should face the legal consequences.

I also believe that the man’s family can be instrumental in preventing abuse during the early phase of the dating relationship by warning the woman of their family member’s dangerous behaviors.

Secondly, the abused Christian woman should be empowered to speak up. Most of us are familiar with the statistic that states that one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Interestingly, that data applies to women within the church, regardless of what we want to believe. The denial that abuse is not occurring within the church is so profound that most abused women have come to believe that myth.

When we deny that abuse is happening within the church, we stop the victims from speaking up. As survivors, we have to stop ignoring the facts and speak up. Telling our stories is the first step to breaking free. As Jesus stated in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Speaking the truth is vital in breaking free from abuse.

Too often, and for too many reasons, too many Christian women keep the abuse secret. They do not realize the consequences of doing so has a profound impact on their physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as on their children. When we do decide to speak up, the work required to break the cycle of abuse and to begin healing can be overwhelming. Yet regardless of the difficulty, survivors must speak up because when they do, they are empowered to move forward.

The church community must play a central role in speaking out. It is from the body of Christ that both survivors and abusers can receive spiritual healing. But to speak out, the church first has to create an environment that is non-judgmental so that victims can feel emotionally safe.

Creating a safe environment in the church means having leaders condemn domestic violence from the pulpit. When leaders acknowledge the problem, the victim will feel safe to come forward. Speaking out also consists of denouncing any forms of violence and imposing church discipline on members who refuse to seek help to stop their abusive behaviors.

Yet to be truly effective in speaking out, education and training of church leadership is a must. To diagnose a disease, the doctor must be trained to recognize the symptoms of the disease. An untrained doctor will most likely make the wrong diagnosis and the prescribed treatment will make the problem worse. This scenario can be applied to those who are trying to help couples in abusive relationships. The lack of training to identify abusive behaviors will lead to ineffective interventions.

In addition to education and training, most churches will have to reexamine how they use the scriptures when addressing abuse. In recent news, a Southern Baptist leader told abused women that they shouldn’t divorce their husbands. Instead, they should pray. According to The Washington Post, his “controversial sermons” led to thousands of women speaking out. I hope this outpouring of voices will lead to changes in how the church handles domestic violence.

Speaking up is the first step in acknowledging that abuse is occurring in the church. When we do that, we can then work together to find solutions. What about you? Are you going to speak up?

I will be hosting a workshop called A Cry for Help on September 15, 2018, to help educate members and leaders of faith communities about domestic violence and show how to better support those who are trying to escape from this violence. Survivors of domestic violence will lead this conference. It is time that the survivors have a voice. When we join together and speak the truth, then we shall be made free.

Look for registration information on my website and Facebook:
www.rosesaad.com
A Path to Hope

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May 11, 2018 2 comments
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