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Getting over the experiences that have harmed our lives requires healing. Yet, (though our bodies might heal from physical injuries) healing from emotional damage isn’t always automatic. We have to make a choice to heal. When we make the choice to emotionally heal, we might be faced with barriers that stop us from achieving that end. It seems that when we move one step forward, we find ourselves sliding two steps backward. Why? Because those barriers hold us back. This article will discuss the five barriers that need to be removed before we can start our healing process.

As Christians, we can find in the scriptures compelling stories that can help us see those obstacles that stop us from changing, and then show us how to overcome them. From my own experience, the stories of the people in the scriptures were instrumental in helping me to see what I needed to change on my journey to heal from abuse. 

I am going to focus on Christian women, but this lesson can be applied to anyone, even nonreligious people, who have experienced any type of abuse or any stressful life events. Most of our barriers are within ourselves. I will describe our self-imposed barriers that need to be changed by examining the story of the Healing at the Pool.

Afterward, Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! (John 5:1–9, NLT) 

Let us now look at the five barriers that the sick man had to overcome, and how they can be applied to our own personal healing journey.

Barrier 1: Lack of motivation

What do I mean by a lack of motivation? The man in the story had a condition that required a change. He had been sick for thirty-eight years! He wanted to be healed. He knew where to get his healing and was in the right place, but he couldn’t do what was needed to receive the cure, which was to get into the pool. Yes, his disability was a barrier that made it difficult to get into the pool. Yet I can’t help thinking that, with enough determination, he could have pulled himself to the edge of the pool and waited for the water to bubble. The act may have required a lot of physical and emotional effort and might even have been painful, but it would have been worth it. 

Maybe he did try. But at some point, he must have given up, because he didn’t receive his healing. When Jesus asked him, “Would you like to get well?” his lack of motivation was evident when he responded with, “I can’t.” He had lost all hope of getting well.

As survivors of abuse, how can we relate to this story? I know I can. Admitting to others and accepting that I was an abused woman was painful. People will look down on you and blame you for the failure of the relationship were thoughts that flooded my mind. They wouldn’t believe your story and will think that you are trying to damage your husband’s name. These thoughts became barriers that made it difficult to try to seek help. As a result, I had to get rid of my self-imposed barriers before I could start my healing process.

Healing will require a lot of physical, emotional, and spiritual effort. Some of you will have to relive the past and talk about the abuse. It might re-open old wounds that you thought had healed long ago. Talking about your abuse might bring to the surface the shame and embarrassment that you are not ready to face. You might have tried and failed to change your situation, and now it seems a voice is whispering in your ear, “It’s no use trying.” As you reflect on these difficulties you might even despair of trying or lose what little incentive you had to try.

Keep trying

Barrier 2: No plan

Back to the sick man in the story. I often wonder if he had a plan. He had found ways to eat, sleep, and take care of himself physically, so why didn’t he have a plan to get in the pool? Maybe he did have a plan and it didn’t work. But from his conversation with Jesus, it appeared that he had given up thinking about it.  

Leaving your abusive relationship means having a plan. That plan could include a safety plan, a list of financial resources, legal support, and support from others. Likewise, healing requires a plan. 

To heal you must have a plan for coping with the psychological effects of the abuse. That could mean seeking help from others, in addition to giving yourself emotional and physical self-care. You have to learn to recognize and refute to the lies that you have been told about yourself and the abuse.

As Christians, we can apply the scriptures to expose these lies. If you are struggling with your faith, you might need to ask others to help you understand God’s character and embrace his promises so that you can be empowered with his strength so that you can remove your barriers as you seek healing.

Professional counseling is part of the plan. I believe that counseling in conjunction with the scriptures is essential. Some might think that praying is enough, and therefore not bother with professional counseling. Yes, it is important that you pray regularly, but counseling could be part of God’s answer to your prayers. 

Another part of the healing plan could be participating in support groups to encourage and empower you to realize that you are not alone and that other women like you have freed themselves from abuse.

Barrier 3: Making excuses

The man in the story made excuses when Jesus asked him, “Would you like to get well?” He responded, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” The man didn’t take responsibility for his inaction.

What about you? You cannot blame others for keeping you in your abusive relationship. Perhaps you did receive well-meaning but faulty advice from the church, or from professionals, or friends and family to stay in your relationship. Yes, they were in error, but you have to acknowledge that you accepted their bad advice and are ultimately responsible for following it.

You are responsible for seeking change and healing from abuse. Don’t expect someone to come to your physical and emotional rescue. You cannot expect others to reach out to you; you have to reach out to them. 

Barrier 4: Fear

Maybe the man in the story feared for his physical safety; maybe he was afraid of getting mishandled by others. He may also have been afraid to heal. Healing would have required him to change the way he had been living for the past thirty-eight years. He would have to learn to take care of himself and work for a living. 

Fear is the number one reason why people stay in abusive relationships. Most of our fears are legitimate, like fear for our safety and the safety of our children, or lack of financial resources and support from others. But I do believe that some of us might fear change because it will force us to leave our familiar way of life. Fear of the unknown or even the unfamiliar can prevent you from moving forward to heal. 

Barrier 5: Not seeking help

His response to Jesus, when asked if he wanted to be well, was, “I have no one to put me in the pool.” As I mentioned before, he didn’t have a plan, but he was surrounded by people at the pool. Couldn’t he have asked one of them for help? It’s worth noting that he did not even ask Jesus for help! Jesus had to come to him.

Many women, including me, find it difficult to ask others for help. Most women who are in or have recently left their abusive relationship can’t solve the problems associated with the abuse alone. You need the support and resources of others to help you change your situation. Your family, community, and church all have their part in helping you change and heal. Healing cannot be done alone. 

Trust the strength within

Overcoming the barriers

Let’s look at Jesus’ response again. He told the man to “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” In other words, do something! He didn’t waste time talking about all the man’s sins or bring up his past failures or try to make him feel that he wasn’t doing enough to get well. He knew all the barriers that kept the man from healing. Yet he placed the choice for healing in the man’s hands, by asking him if he wanted to get well. The man’s desire to heal had to be so strong that it overcame all the barriers that he had. 

I believe that Jesus not only took care of the man’s physical needs, but he also attended to his emotional needs. By giving the man the confidence to overcome his fear and doubts, Jesus made him believe that he could walk, and thereby find the inner strength to stand up by himself.

What about you? You also have the choice to heal. Jesus is not going to bring up your lack of motivation or listen to your excuses. But like the man in the story, you have to trust that you can overcome every barrier that stops you from moving forward to heal. But remember, you have to reach out to others who might offer you a helping hand. The key here is that your desire to heal has to be so strong that it will overpower your pain and fear of failure. Then you can take that leap of faith by knowing that Jesus will be with you along your way.

The content of this blog is adapted from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman

How to Feel Better -Jodi Aman
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January 8, 2020 0 comment
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The first step to emotionally and spiritually heal from any harmful relationship requires self-reflection. Self-reflection involves examining how you got into and chose to stay in your relationship. For this blog, I will focus on domestic abusive relationships. And I will address some of the changes you might need to make as you seek healing.

When I talk about self-reflection, I am talking about discovering how your partner’s abusive actions affected your emotional and spiritual well-being. I am not talking about taking the blame for what your abuser did. You are never responsible for someone else’s actions. But your responsibility is to understand what happened and what you did about it.

You can start by asking yourself, how did I get into this mess? I believe that when we self-reflect and try to answer that question, we will discover things that we might need to address as we seek healing. I will attempt to answer that question and suggest some things you can do to change and heal.

Self-reflection: How did I get into this mess?

Love

Yes, love is the number one reason why we stay in an abusive relationship. Most people I know married for love. I certainly did! But I think my concept of love wasn’t as clear as I thought it was. It was influenced by others’ perceptions of who I was and was performance-based. The truth was, I didn’t love who I was or saw myself as important, due to past experiences in my childhood and teenage years. In addition to those experiences, my parents weren’t around to nurture my sense of self-worth. This led to a faulty concept of love which made it difficult to tell the difference between healthy love versus sick love.

Love in an abusive relationship means one person does all the giving and the other person does all the taking. Once you realize that fact, you can change your unhealthy concept of love and replace it with healthy love. As Christians, we don’t have to look too far because Christ demonstrated what healthy love is.

Fear

We can’t move forward without addressing fear. Fear is what keeps us frozen and unable to seek change. Although fear is healthy if it keeps us out of danger, some of our fears are irrational. For me, I feared my husband’s wrath more than God’s wrath. You might ask, how so? I mean that I wasn’t afraid to break God’s commandments, such as lying to please Xavier or covering up for his abuse; in other words, I was more fearful of what my husband would do if I didn’t follow his wishes. Some of us fear our families, or what the church might say when we speak the truth. We let our fears stop us from seeking change.

We can’t let fear stop us from doing what we must do to change our abusive situation. If we’re ever going to move forward, we have to face up to our fears and realize that the alternative may be worse.

Shame/Embarrassment

As we self-reflect, I think shame is second only to fear in preventing us from seeking help. Shame is inwardly self-inflicted. Shame tells you that you are unimportant, or don’t deserve any sympathy because you made some bad choices. Embarrassment, on the other hand, is being affected by what other people think. Both are damaging to one’s sense of self.

I believe that educated women who are accustomed to being in control or who can access the resources to end the abuse are at more risk of letting shame and embarrassment stop them from seeking help. I know friends who have left their abusive relationships but haven’t started the process of healing from “domestic abuse” because they weren’t ready to accept the fact that they were victims. Accepting that fact will mean having to face their shame.

Confronting our shame in a safe environment will help us to overcome it so that we can move forward to freedom from abuse.

Anger

Self-reflection will help us uncover our anger, which is required to heal. Self-reflection means asking questions like, “Why didn’t I leave early?” and “I can’t believe I let him treat me that way, and why didn’t I do something?” These types of questions may produce anger and regret. Anger itself is not bad. Anger allowed me to take back some of my power; for instance, I refused to have a joint bank account so that I could have control of my money.

But the thing about anger is, if you stay in that state, you will become resentful and bitter. We have to make a conscious effort to use anger only for positive change and not let it control our lives

Trust

Abuse can cripple our sense of trust. It hampers our ability to trust ourselves and even God. I know of a woman who was angry with God for allowing her abuser to get off without any consequences. Mentioning God will send her into tears, and her resentment will be obvious in her face. She didn’t trust God anymore.

But I believe we have to retain our trust in God so that we can trust ourselves. Also, we have to understand what trust means.

I am glad the scriptures don’t command us to trust everyone who says, “I’m sorry.” Regardless, some of us were urged by others to trust our abuser when he said he was sorry without showing any signs of meaning it.

Even though I have forgiven my abuser, that doesn’t mean I have to trust him. I had to realize that I am not required to trust him even if he apologizes or shows tearful remorse. Trust is earned, and he would have to demonstrate that he deserves my trust. There was no time limit attached to the acceptance of my trust in him. I had to be okay with that choice.

As we seek healing, our priority should be learning to trust God and to trust ourselves. Trust that we have the power within ourselves to change our situation. In addition, trusting our abusers is not based on what others want from us.

Forgiveness

I think our greatest challenge as we self-reflect is learning to forgive. We can spend hours on this topic. Forgiveness is the key to healing. Here, I am talking about self-forgiveness. For most of us, it is easier to forgive others than ourselves.

It was difficult to forgive myself. Why did I allow his abuse to happen for so long? Why did I expose my children to an environment that was damaging their emotional health? My responses to these questions produced anger that I had to confront and let go of.

If we don’t forgive ourselves, abuse will continue to control us. I believe the key to self-forgiveness is understanding God’s grace. It is easier to extend grace to others than to ourselves. For me, extending grace to myself means that I am not taking responsibility for my actions, nor am I taking advantage of God’s kindness. But if we don’t extend grace to ourselves, we are not allowing the scriptures’ power to change us.

In conclusion, we have to realize that the scriptures have the power to heal us. But we must still do the work that is required to heal. Self-reflection will help us identify areas that we can address as we seek healing. I pray that when you self-reflect, God will grant you the knowledge to change the areas in your life that need his healing.

The content of this blog is adapted from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman.

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November 26, 2019 2 comments
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When we discuss the cycle of domestic abuse, the honeymoon phase appears to be a period of rest from the abuse and perhaps even an end to it. But the question here is this really a honeymoon? In my opinion, it is not. Don’t get caught up in the honeymoon phase because it is just a continuation of the abuse. For that reason, we need to look at how to escape the honeymoon phase and why we should. 

According to Lenore Walker, the cycle of abuse consists of three phases. Walker’s description of this cycle has been modified over the years, but in her original version, the first phase consisted of tension building, in which the woman “walks on eggshells” due to the abuser’s behaviors. He becomes critical, jealous, cold, distant, or withdrawn. And the woman can only wait for the impending doom.

The second phase is where the battering occurs or the battering phase. There is an explosion of verbal attacks. The abuser becomes hostile and screams out threats, breaks objects or physically assaults her. 

The third phase is known as the honeymoon phase. He says he is sorry and gives her flowers or expensive gifts. He might start to take on responsibilities such as caring for the kids or participate in household activities that he refused to do before the violent events. During this time, he might even say he is going to seek help and change his behaviors. Most women, more likely, they want to believe that he is sorry and is going to change.

Let’s look at the honeymoon phase to see how it is an extension of the abuse.

Manipulative and deceptive behaviors

During the honeymoon phase, he does not give the real motives behind the sudden change from being mean to be nice. His reason for being so tearful and apologetic is to stop her from going to the police, especially when there is bruising or other evidence of a physical assault. Or he could be afraid of losing her. His ultimate motive is to return the relationship back to the state where he was in full control.

Therefore, he showers her with so many gifts and kind words that she doesn’t have the time to think about or even remember the abusive events and seek help. She may feel pressured into accepting his presents. She might be afraid to refuse him, afraid that the abuse will return, like a bad movie sequel, bigger and meaner than before. There is a fear that if she is not receptive, the tension or abusive cycle will resume.

Due to his deceptive behaviors, she is pushed back into the grooming phase, which reminds her of the good times. Those memories reinforce the hope that he can change. She begins to fantasize that the relationship will become the kind of relationship she had hoped for. This hope leads her to tell herself that “it wasn’t that bad” and to dismiss the idea of seeking help. And so, he gets away with his behaviors*. As a result, the cycle of abuse goes on.

Coercive forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process

The woman feels compelled to forgive him, which is premature forgiveness. Premature forgiveness is accepting an apology without having time to process the hurt or acknowledge it. He says he is sorry and promises not to hurt her again. She accepts his apology before working through the process of forgiveness. I believe that forgiveness is a process. For healing to occur, she needs time to acknowledge her hurt, be aware of the effects of the offense, and to see some changed behaviors—in this case, no more abuse.

How to escape the honeymoon phase

The important thing is, during the crisis, and especially after an abusive event, you need to seek help! Your safety is your number one priority. If your abuser is unable to manipulate you during the honeymoon phase, then his frustration and rage might intensify. It is crucial that you get help if you decide to make any drastic changes, such as leaving the relationship.

Here are some actions you can take

Insist on time to process the event. The human brain needs to process and make sense of every social interaction. When forced into moving forward without a logical understanding behind the abusive behaviors, there is confusion. This confusion can lead to denial, which traps you in a relationship that damages your physical and emotional well-being.

It might be best to maintain no contact when you insist on time away from him. This will allow you time to think and process the events and what actions to take. If you do not distance yourself, you might be manipulated and pulled back into the cycle.

Seek help

Ask God for wisdom

I will repeat: It is critical that you seek help during the crisis phase. It is during this time that you might have some control and can make decisions without his interference. If you are showing signs of physical abuse, he might try to stop you from seeking help due to fear of the consequences. But you have to be strong and get help without his permission.

Seeing through the confusion means educating yourself about domestic abuse. Therefore, find resources in your community to gain awareness that you are not alone, and there is a way to break the cycle so that you won’t get caught in the web of the honeymoon phase.

Here are links to find the domestic violence centers in your areas:

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

Wait to see the changed behaviors over time

Some of the actions you should look for are he admitting that he is an abuser and is seeking professional help. Willingness to accept the consequences of his behaviors, and asking others to hold him accountable, are the things he should be doing. Most importantly, he must allow you space to see his change over time. How much time that takes depends on the kind of man he is. He might not even change at all, and you will need time to accept that situation.

To conclude, don’t get caught in the web of the honeymoon phase. It is after the abusive incident that you might have the ability to seek help without him. Find time to reflect on his behaviors, so that you can determine what actions you need to take to break the cycle. Pray for wisdom to expose the truth behind his behaviors.

*A Path to Hope: Restoring The Spirit Of the Abused Christian Woman

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July 26, 2019 0 comment
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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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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 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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A Cry for Help is a domestic violence workshop scheduled for September 15, 2018. In researching how to host a successful event, I came across an Eventbrite marketing strategy timeline template. They recommend that you write a post stating the purpose of your event before the registration process. In other words, the why behind your actions is essential to convincing people to attend.

Why do I want to host a domestic violence workshop? In my last blog A Call for Action, I addressed some of the reasons for my actions. I want to educate others about domestic violence. My burning passion is to be an advocate, a voice within the church and the community for the victims and survivors of abuse. With that voice, I can empower other survivors to speak out – because collectively, we can make a difference.

For this workshop, there are two types of people that I would like to speak to. The first is any woman who is a survivor of domestic violence. Let me emphasize here that men are victims too and can certainly benefit from the workshop, but the primary focus is on the woman for the simple reason that most domestic violence victims are female. My second audience is the community in which the woman interacts. This means anyone who wants to know more about domestic violence and how to help.

As a survivor and a Christian, my faith was central in helping me to understand the effects of the violence on my physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It also allowed me to realize that violence was not God’s will for my life. I want women of faith who have experienced abuse to develop a conviction that the Scriptures have the power to educate and transform their lives regardless of the pain they have endured.  Jesus states in Matthew 22:29, “You are in error because you do not know the power of the Scriptures or the power of God.”

We cannot underestimate the power of God. He can change every situation according to his will. Many abused women may have felt rejection from their members of faith when they came forward to expose the abuse. They were judged by others and blamed for what was occurring in the relationship. And some had to leave the church community due to lack of support. Regardless of those experiences, God is supreme, and he has the power to change the course of their lives.

I also want survivors to recognize the power of education. Education is essential to understanding the dynamics of abuse and its impact on one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual self. This knowledge will influence the type of help that is needed and show one how to tap into the resources to change his or her situation.

The second purpose of the workshop is to educate the community, most specifically the church. This need for education was recently reaffirmed by two courageous women who are members of the Mennonite church. When they broke the silence, they were blamed, misjudged, and shunned by others within their church family. In essence, they experienced rejection from their community. When I asked one of the women why she stayed, she answered, “If I leave, how will I make a difference?”  Her response struck a chord within me and reignited my desire to overcome my fears not to give up.  Regardless of their experiences, these women were willing to stay for the overall good and bear the emotional pain that comes with rejection.

I love my church family and I am fortunate to have an excellent group of people who loved my children and me and still do today. They are also instrumental in my success as a parent and are responsible for the maturation of my faith. However, as with most churches, there is still denial that abuse is occurring within the congregation. I pray that I, like my courageous friends, will have the voice to make a difference.

“Why are most churches in denial?” I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I have come to believe that addressing abuse is like opening Pandora’s box. When the evil is exposed it will become too obvious to ignore and the church will have the moral duty to respond.

I am sure that there are many plausible-sounding reasons for not breaking the silence within the church environment.  One possible reason may be the inability to identify abuse in relationships where there is no physical evidence of violence. The dismissive claim that abuse is a relational problem rather than a power and control issue shows the need for education. Education is required to distinguish abusive behaviors from normal relationship problems and to apply the appropriate interventions.

Other reasons could be the possibility of personal danger or legal implications when trying to help. We have all heard stories about people who lost their lives by trying to help. And yet there is some risk attached to anything we do in life. Shouldn’t we take the chance if it means saving someone?

A Cry for Help will educate those who are willing to remove some of the barriers to helping victims of abuse. We will define what domestic violence means, show how to create an environment for breaking the silence, and offer resources to make referrals to the community. We will discuss how we can give help, whether as laypersons or as individuals with no leadership function within the church. Lastly, we will help you understand what your legal role is and what you are not required to do.

The speakers are highly trained in their specialties, in addition to being survivors of domestic abuse as well as advocates who are actively involved in educating the church and the community on how to help.

Look out for the registration information on  A Path to Hope, or check out my website rosesaad.com. I hope you will join me on September 15, 2018.  Together we can make a difference!

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April 21, 2018 0 comment
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As a survivor and an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, there are three areas that I wish to address as a platform. Too often survivors do not have a voice. Their voices have been taken away by the violence. But when we educate ourselves as survivors about the dynamics of violence and tell others what we want and need, our voices are infused with power. We become catalysts for change. With united voices, change is certain to happen.

We can no longer sit back and watch others suffer. As Christians, we are empowered by God to change the situation. When we are steeped in God’s power no one can stand in our way. We will be able to speak the truth with love regardless of the responses from others, even from our leaders of faith

As I address those areas I want to change, I hope to encourage those who are reading this to respond. This response could mean getting involved in your community, speaking out against violence against women and children, or by supporting your local domestic violence center. We all have the moral responsibility to stop violence against others.

Education

In the absence of physical evidence (such as bruises), people might not think domestic abuse is happening. Depictions of physical violence in the media reinforce this type of thinking. The violence shown on our screens may attract viewers, but none of these media seriously try to educate the public or call upon them to take action. But the abused woman who is watching these violent scenes is flooded with shame and humiliation. There are no real takeaways or solutions that might help one to understand the physical and psychological impact of the abuse on her wellbeing, let alone the resources to seek help.

Too often the question is asked, “Why doesn’t she leave?”  I believe there is a knowledge deficit on the part of the individual who is asking this question. To answer that question, one must understand the dynamics of abuse. The public needs to understand how easy it is for someone to get trapped in the cycle of abuse and how hard it is to get out.

To educate the public, domestic abuse must first be defined. There are different types of abuse. Emotional or psychological abuse is rampant in abusive relationships and occurs far more often than physical violence.

Physical abuse entails more than physical assault; it also includes physically blocking someone’s movement or locking her out of the house.

Sexual abuse or rape is extremely prevalent in a violent relationship. Even though a woman may realize that sexual coercion is occurring in her relationship, it is easier to deny it than to admit it to others.

Other types of abuse are economical and spiritual. Economic abuse is not paying the bills, refusing to give the woman money, or refusing to support the family. Spiritual abuse is using religion to justify one’s position as a controller, invoking God to instill fear, or preventing the woman from going to church.

Understanding the tactics and the cycle of violence will expose how the abuser operates to gain power and control. Establishing power and control is the abuser’s objective.

It is easy for the victim to get caught in the web of violence. The abuser is not always violent or domineering. Indeed, the relationship may appear quite normal – on the surface. The victim might not even believe she is in an abusive relationship. Or she might realize that her relationship is abusive, but the powerful force called the honeymoon phase binds her to the relationship. During this phase, and after a violent episode, the abuser exhibits acts of kindness, apologizes for his behavior, and promises not to hurt her again. He might even agree to seek counseling. These types of behaviors reinforce the hope that the abuser can change. That hope makes it difficult for the victim to leave.

However, over time and without intervention, the impact of the abuse on the victim’s psychological and physical health makes it harder to escape. As she attempts to cope with the abuse, she develops a sense of failure and shame. She is overwhelmed by feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, self-blame, fear, and denial. All these reactions end up weakening her self-esteem and eroding her ability to manage her life and seek help.

Society needs to be educated on how to remove the misinformation about victims of abuse. Victims of rape and domestic violence are still stigmatized by our society. They are often seen as weak or foolish and of somehow at fault for bringing the situation down upon themselves. A statement such as “She must like the abuse, or she would have left the relationship” reinforces this type of misconception. Also, victims of violence are perceived as a byproduct of a marginalized environment; perhaps they use drugs and alcohol or are poor and uneducated. This belief cannot be further from the truth. Abuse can occur in any social group, regardless of economic status or educational attainment.

I have seen so many comments on a video or story about an abused woman who refuses to leave a relationship. She is often called many unpleasant names. It is critical that we teach others about the dynamics of domestic violence and its consequences. It is only by abandoning misconceptions and negative attitudes towards abused women that people can give them the help they need.

It is also important that education includes the prevention of abuse. Prevention is the key to ending domestic violence. For example, helping women identify red flags early in the relationship can help them make informed decisions before committing to marriage. Common red flags are routine road rage/aggressive driving, lack of respect for her privacy and personal boundaries, excessive jealousy, and rushing the idea of living together or marriage. Too often women are unaware of these red flags, or they may feel that something is wrong but ignore their intuition. When something doesn’t feel right, the woman should give careful thought to those feelings. When her psyche is being violated, the relationship is not right!

Access to Resources and Support

When someone is trying to get out from an abusive relationship, it is important to remind her that SHE CANNOT DO IT BY HERSELF! She needs the community’s help. The first step in seeking help is for the victim to have validation of her story. Validating that the abuser’s behaviors are wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated is an essential step to empowerment. Not only should validation and protection of the victim begin with the victim’s family, but the abuser’s family should be an advocate and a voice for the victim as well.

The victims and abusers should have easy access to community resources. The community, including family members, should shoulder the responsibility for upholding the law and holding abusers accountable for their actions. Safety should always be the highest priority. Therefore, members of the community should refer victims – even those who do not have any evidence of physical assault – to agencies that specialize in domestic abuse.

The Church/Religious Organizations

The church and other religious organizations can no longer be silent about domestic abuse. According to statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Members of the Christian church and other religions are not immune from this condition. The church cannot keep quiet while its members are suffering. We are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. When we turn away and pretend that abuse is not occurring, we are refusing to follow the footsteps of Jesus.

To address the problem, religious organizations must first learn everything about domestic violence. Training is required for the church leaders to be able to identify the symptoms of domestic violence. It is important to note that domestic violence is not due to lack of communication and should not be viewed as a relationship problem. To collect the data and make the appropriate diagnosis and intervention, a safe environment where the victim can discuss her experiences is a must. Therefore, the church must provide a non-judgmental environment where the woman can talk openly.

Churches and other religious organizations must collaborate with agencies in the community that specialize in helping domestic violence victims. Few churches have the resources to protect the victim when her safety is threatened. Nor can they provide legal counsel or the physical and psychological interventions that are needed to help the victim recover. As a result, the church must make referrals.

All religions must bear the responsibility if they refuse to address abuse, or if they discourage the victim from seeking help. In most cases, the misinterpretation of scriptures by those who are supposedly helping the woman can end up harming her psychological and spiritual wellbeing and make it difficult for her to break free from her torment. The role of the church is to clarify the scriptures and allow the woman to develop her own convictions as she seeks spiritual and emotional healing. The scriptures have the power to help the woman break free. This can be achieved by helping the woman build her faith so that she changes her perception of how God sees her as his child. As a part of his family, she is not meant to be abused.

The scriptures can be used to address abuse. God’s response to sin does not change, regardless of the sin. Sin is sin. The role of the church is to hold its members accountable for their sins. Domestic violence is sin, and every sin requires repentance. Repentance is a complete change of heart as in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. It requires godly sorrow that leads to the urgency to change, which means admitting that one is an abuser and asking others to help him change his behaviors. If the abuser refuses to change, then Jesus states in Matthew 18:15-17 that we should treat that person as “a pagan or a tax collector.” In the case of domestic violence, when the abuser refuses to stop his destructive actions, then the victim has not only the moral right but an obligation to seek a legal separation.

Scriptures that address submission, such as Ephesians 5:22-24, need to be clarified. The church should define what submission is not. Submission is not accepting verbal or physical or sexual abuse. Other scriptures that address suffering (e.g., 1 Peter 2:21-23) are misused to reinforce that abuse is a woman’s cross to bear. But Jesus’ suffering was by choice and for a good purpose; the abused woman’s suffering is forced upon her and produces nothing good. It covers up the sins of the abuser while letting him escape the consequences. By not letting the abuser reap the consequences of his behaviors, we encourage the woman to violate the laws of the land.

Stopping the violence and holding perpetrators accountable starts within the family and extends outward to the community and society. We can no longer sit back and watch our mothers, sisters, and daughters endure violence. All faiths must acknowledge that violence is occurring among their members. The community is morally obligated to protect the woman and her children from violence.

Individually, we all have a moral responsibility to stop violence against women. What are you going to do?

 

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