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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 2 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?

Please, Mark Your Calendars!

Out of my desire to empower survivors to speak out and learn how they can make a difference together, I will be organizing a workshop called A Cry for Help. Preliminary date for the workshop is September 15, 2018.

The purpose of this workshop is to educate members and leaders of faith communities about domestic violence and how to better support those who suffer from this violence. A Cry for Help will be primarily conducted by survivors of domestic violence. It is time that the survivors have a voice. We believe that survivors can best discover and communicate their needs and struggles within their faith communities.

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March 3, 2018 0 comment
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“Submission” is a word that, when associated with relationships, provokes strong feelings. As a result of my own experiences, the word gives me a surge of nausea and the urge to defend myself. Then my anger comes to the surface because I feel that I am going to be judged or blamed for not doing something. This type of reaction comes from the word itself and what it implies. It usually implies subordination or obedience to someone. You are subordinate, and another person has power over you.

This meaning is evident in society’s view of male/female roles. The male is expected to be in charge. Also, our religious teachings help maintain this idea. It seems that, when submission is discussed, an inference is made that someone is doing something wrong. In most cases, it is the fault of the woman because our religious teachings state that she is called to submit to her husband.

The problem here is, most of the scriptures that are used to defend submission are taken out of context, or that emphasis is placed on a part and not on the whole. I recall listening to numerous sermons on relationships. At first, I was excited because I expected the speaker to describe submission, and that I would hear the word “abuse” and “what submission is not.” But that never happened. Instead, the sermons raised more questions than they answered.

I often used to ask myself, “What is submission?” Does it mean I must stand and do nothing while my husband screams and calls me things no woman should be called?  And that he could physically attack me without fear of being called to account for his actions. Should I keep letting him squander our money and not intervene? Does he have complete power to make all the decisions concerning the household? Am I responsible only for taking care of the children and the house? With no answers to these questions, I could only feel guilt and self-blame, and the belief that I wasn’t submissive enough.

One of the scriptures that are taken out of context, to the detriment of abused women everywhere is Ephesians 5:22-24:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (NIV)

After reading this scripture, my brain would focus on a few words in the passage and miss the overall meaning. I would fix my attention on the statement “wives should submit to their husbands in everything,” which was taken to literally mean I was to let him control all areas of my life.

The concentration on these few sentences in Ephesians 5 is often applied to women who are in abusive marriages. The first sentence in verse 22, “wives submit yourselves to your own husbands,” is usually the primary focus when they seek help for their relationships. It took me a while to redirect my attention and read the passages in their entirety to understand what Paul was saying.

Look closely at this scripture: it has a pretty clear directive of how we should submit. First, it states, “as you do to the Lord.” What does it mean to submit to the Lord? Is our Lord Jesus an abuser? We can all answer with a resounding NO! He was never unkind to anyone, even when he rebuked the Pharisees. He spoke the truth. He wasn’t mean-spirited or manipulative. He was filled with love and compassion, as seen during his interactions with all people, and especially with women.

When we as Christians submit to Christ, we are making him the Lord of our lives and an example to follow. We promise to do what he will do, which means, not concealing the sins of others.

This verse goes on to state that wives should submit as “the church submits to Christ.” How does the church submit to Christ? The church is supposed to reflect Christ and be the beacon of hope for others, and not keep silent when some of its members are suffering unjustly. The church’s role is to help its members follow Christ. As Christians, we shouldn’t let someone who is not following Christ set the example for us to follow.

Besides, submission goes both ways. It says in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Both husband and wife should submit to one another out of respect for Christ. We have to do what Christ would do, not what we would do. Our love for Christ has to be the motivator as we follow him.

We are also called to submit to the rulers of the land. “Submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human authority … or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14, NIV). As Christian wives, we receive conflicting messages: we are told to bring charges against a stranger who assaults us, but we must take no action when our husband is the assailant. As a result, we are being asked to break the laws of the land by covering up our partners’ abuses.

When the word submission is not specific as “what is” and “what is not,” it makes it easy to accept abuse. As I look back, I wish I had heard what submission is not. Maybe it might have helped me to gain the insight that my submissive behaviors weren’t Jesus’s expectation of me. Now I know and believe that the purpose of submission was never intended to cover up someone else’s sins. Submission doesn’t mean we submit to verbal abuse, physical assault, or rape. It doesn’t say we should allow our partners to separate us from our family or friends. Nor does it deny us the right to speak our minds or exercise our right to partake in decisions that impact our lives.

Check out this link to read more about what submission is not.

When we speak out against our abuse and when we demand that our partners stop abusing us, then we are truly submitting to Christ. And we are obeying his instructions to submit to the laws of the land when we seek legal recourse against those who refuse to stop hurting us.

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February 2, 2018 0 comment
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1 Peter 2: 21–23 states, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

I met a woman who had left her violent husband and was going through divorce proceedings. She was angry at the legal system for allowing her husband to stretch out the process. She felt that, due to his status in the military, the judge was lenient with him and accepted his excuses to constantly reschedule the hearings. Rescheduling was a financial burden for her because she had to pay for her lawyer’s time with each new change. Yet her anger at her husband’s manipulating the courts was nothing compared to her feelings towards God. At any mention of God, her body stiffened and her language was overcome with emotion. “God? Where is God? Why is he allowing me to suffer? How can he let my husband get away with the pain he’s causing?” Her tone of voice was so intense that it made me want to leave the room.

“Where is God?” “Why is he is allowing me to suffer?” “Why has he abandoned me?” These are questions that many Christian women ask when they are experiencing domestic violence. I used to ask myself the same questions. As Christians, we often turn to the scriptures to explain our suffering. They are used to justify the reasons for our suffering. In 1 Peter 2 we are told, “Didn’t Christ suffer unjustly?” He suffered physical pain and false accusations. He was spat on, called names, and made the center of cruel jokes, but he didn’t retaliate. Since he suffered in silence and did not retaliate, we too are expected to do likewise and follow in his footsteps.

But when 1 Peter is used to justify our sufferings, it makes it easy to accept abuse, and it also produces guilt. We feel guilty because our suffering is less than what Jesus experienced on the cross. I felt guilty because I wasn’t suffering as much as Jesus was suffering. Therefore, by this logic, I had no right to complain. When we think this way, we accept abuse and come to believe that we are following Christ’s footsteps.

We are told that our abusive marriage is our “cross to bear,” that it is God’s will for our lives. Our suffering is rationalized with scriptures like Matthew 16:24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” and Luke 14:27, “You cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross, and follow me” (NLT).

The question here is, what is the cross we have to bear? Is it our “cross” to be beaten until we cannot see through our blackened eyes or speak through swollen lips? Is every vicious act our “cross?” Does bearing our cross mean we must accept insults, physical threats, or separation from our friends and family?

One of the books that helped me decide that my suffering was neither my cross nor God’s will for my life was, No Place for Abuse, by Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark. They point out that Christ went to the cross voluntarily. His suffering was for a greater good, which is salvation for all. Carrying our cross means surrendering to God and allowing Christ to lead us, and not to be led by the sinful actions of others.

The suffering experienced in an abusive relationship is involuntary and has no benefit to anyone, not even the abuser. Where are the good results from the abuse? Is standing and letting someone inflict pain doing any good or saving anyone? Did you choose to be beaten or verbally insulted? I am pretty sure that no one enters a relationship knowing she is going to be hurt. And surely no one believes that putting up with the violence will stop it. I have yet to meet a woman whose suffering caused her abusive partner to clean up his act.

Covering up someone else’s sins and quietly accepting abuse is not the kind of suffering that leads to good results. It only allows the abuser to dodge the consequences of his cruelty.

Also, surrendering to God’s will does not mean accepting senseless suffering and the abuser’s lack of remorse. Yes, the word senseless is appropriate when we suffer at the hands of someone who professes to love us.

Carrying our cross does not mean accepting every mistreatment by others, especially when God has given us the power to make changes. Abuse destroys the souls of both victim and abuser. When I finally accepted these facts, I was able to set boundaries and seek accountability for my ex-husband’s actions.

What about you? God loves you. And, as his daughter, you have a much higher calling than to be a victim. You don’t need to suffer senselessly. Jesus has freed you from oppression (Luke 4: 18–19) and will bind and heal your broken heart (Isaiah 61: 1–2). That means that he has set you free from abuse and will comfort you when you suffer. Since he has set you free, you need no longer be burdened by the bondage of abuse (Galatians 5: 1).

He wants you to live life to the fullest (John 10: 10), which means a life free of violence for you and your children. When Jesus was crucified, he took upon himself the suffering deserved by all sinners. Therefore, you don’t have to suffer as he did. 1 Peter 2: 24 states, “He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross. So, we can be dead to sins and live for what is right” (NLT). Do what is right by exposing the abuse and seeking accountability which is repentance. Repentance means showing remorse and making amends for the suffering he caused. Making amends at the very least is that he stops abusing you.

Next Blog: The Christian Abused Woman: What Submission is Not

*No Place for Abuse: Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger & Nancy Nason-Clark

Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman by Rose Saad

 

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January 12, 2018 1 comment
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From Edith:

LORD, I FIND IT DIFFICULT to tell my story. Sometimes I forget the details. I forget the conflict. I forget the emotions because you have helped me to overcome. If it is your will, help me to recall as if it was yesterday.

 I remember searching for you because I felt lonely and needed your peace. I needed your peace in my time of storm. My life was a storm then. My marriage had fallen apart and the abuse had intensified. In my mind, I felt like I was locked in prison. Instead of loving me, my husband made me fear him. Yet you made me feel like I was in the eye of the storm— all around me was chaos, but you kept me in a place of peace and calmness.

 You, Lord, were like the light that brightens the ground after a storm. The peace and beauty you showed me motivated me to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to worship you. I was eager to meditate on your Word because I knew that in you alone I would find my strength and peace. 

Although I had your peace, I still found myself wanting answers from you. I remember struggling and wrestling with you. I remember asking the “why” questions. I remember questioning my faith. If I had faith, then why wasn’t my husband changing?

 I remember being told that my relationship with my husband is the same as my relationship with God. WOW! Will I ever have a good relationship with you since my relationship with my husband is cool and distant?

 I remember asking the questions about forgiveness. Does it mean I haven’t forgiven my husband because I react to his behaviors? If I have forgiven, why does he provoke the same emotions as before?

 What about suffering? We are supposed to persevere in our sufferings. I remember someone using 1 Peter 2 to demonstrate that I must persevere in my sufferings. Is my relationship with my husband the same as a slave to his master? I am commanded to respect my husband, but am I a slave? Am I a slave to be beaten by my master? Sarah called her husband “master,” but Abraham loved his wife and always protected her. If he is my master, as Abraham was Sarah’s, he should protect and not hurt me.

 What about the instructions to submit? Was I submissive enough? Does submission mean that I do not have any input in the decision-making process and must do everything he tells me to do? Does it mean I stand still while he screams at me with degrading and belittling names in the presence of my children? Doesn’t that tell him and my children that it is OK for someone to call someone else stupid or degrading names?

 What a dilemma! I constantly felt guilty, fearful, anxious, angry, shameful, hopeless, and helpless. I felt guilty because I thought about giving up on my marriage. Does it mean that I am impatient to wait for change? Did that mean I didn’t trust you to change my situation?

 But during my times of confusion, you were there. You showed me that the solution was to separate and escape the abuse. I struggled with this solution because I did not want to break my marriage covenant and my understanding of your scriptures. I wanted my reasons to leave to be based on biblical convictions.

 I examined scriptures that dealt with marriage and divorce and found that adultery was a reason for divorce (Matthew 19:9). My husband committed adultery, but I forgave him for that. I thought about leaving after a bad beating, and had him arrested, but ended up taking him back.

 Ultimately, I developed a personal conviction and left my marriage because of the psychological and physical abuse. No one deserves to be beaten down physically and emotionally, especially by a person who professes to love her. In Malachi 2:16, you said you hate divorce but you also “hate a man’s covering himself with violence.”

 When I accepted Christ as my Lord, you gave me the same inheritance as every other Christian. You love me same as everyone else in your family. You love me and don’t want me to be abused.

 Edith’s story is from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman. Her story is my story and the stories of most abused Christian women. Her interaction with God encapsulates the spiritual conflict or dilemma that is experienced by any Christian woman.

The term “spiritual dilemma” was taken from When Violence Begins at Home by K. J. Wilson. Spiritual dilemmas relate to the feeling of abandonment by God, the reason for suffering, the benefit of submission, and the justification for separation or divorce.1

I like this term because it exemplifies the inner struggles that the Christian woman is faced with as she experiences domestic abuse. Whatever she does to resolve her situation will have unpleasant outcomes or result in a double whammy.

I remember searching for a deeper understanding of the attributes of God during my abusive relationship. I dug into the scriptures to gain wisdom and to find meaning in my experience of my abuse. During this quest, I struggled with God just like Edith. Why was he allowing me to suffer? Why wasn’t God changing my husband? Was it because I had hidden sins? Didn’t I have faith? Wasn’t I submissive enough?  Did thinking about divorce mean that I was impatient and didn’t trust God to change my situation? Those were the types of questions I was asking God.

I believed then that my struggle with God was unique and that my emotional reactions were also unique. I wish I knew what I know now that other Christian women were having the same feelings. This knowledge might have saved me from suffering alone.

Later in the relationship, the book that helped me recognized that I wasn’t alone was Marie Fortune’s Keeping the Faith. She brought to light the questions that I was asking myself about my relationship, about God, and my reaction to what others were telling me about my relationship.

Most Christian women endure these conflicting emotions towards God alone. And when the abuse is exposed the well-meaning advice of others makes her situation worse. When the woman tells about her conflicts, the response she gets is often one of judgment and blame. As a result, she learns to internalized her suffering.

It is essential that we identify and address the woman’s spiritual conflicts and help her to resolve them. When we do, she will develop her convictions and feel empowered to break free from the bonds of domestic abuse. Her power is the choice she makes to stop the violence.

In my next series of blogs, I will address the spiritual dilemmas from the perspective of the abused Christian woman. I will use my experience, along with those experiences of other abused Christian women that I have met. I believe that when the woman understands her dilemma, she can then change her misconceptions about God and receive the strength she needs to resolve her situation.

God gives his wisdom freely to anyone who seeks him. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” When we gain wisdom from the scriptures, it has the power to set us free. When we break free, then through God can help others do the same.

Next Blog: The Abused Christin Woman: Why Am I Suffering?

1K.J. Wilson, When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse (Alameda: Hunter House, 1997), 181.

 

 

 

 

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December 5, 2017 0 comment
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Liz Brody’s article, “Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships,” in http://www.glamour.com, compiled data from an online survey of 2,500 women ages 18-35. According to this survey, the number one reason why these women stayed in their abusive relationships was love. I believe most people marry because of love. Love is the glue that holds a relationship together.

Love allows us to see the good in others, despite their flaws. It gives us faith in them. It enables us to envision their full potential, to look beyond the gloomy present and see the shiny future. Most importantly, love keeps hope alive. Hope for change. Hope for a better tomorrow.

I married out of love. When I met my Xavier, I saw his ability to make his dream come true. I could relate to his dreams and plans. As a team, I believed that we would fulfill those dreams together. I had faith in him even when I saw his flaws. I believed that he could change.

He behaved in ways that looked an awful lot like love. For example, he bought me gifts and flowers, took me to dinner, and attended to my physical needs. All these actions “proved” that he loved me.

Then, when the abuse began to worm its way into the relationship, my view of love became skewed. How could he say he loved me when his actions showed otherwise? How could he whisper sweet words of love to me one moment, and then a few hours later belittle and degrade me? Even though I couldn’t make sense of his behaviors, I still needed to be loved by him. Therefore, I made it my responsibility to make him so happy that he could feel loved enough to love me back.

When that didn’t happen, I internalized that I wasn’t good enough. There was something wrong with me. Or maybe I wasn’t smart enough to know his needs. But to arrive at this kind of thinking, I had to discard my own belief of love and accept his version.

To accept his abuse and still believe that he loved me was incredibly dysfunctional. I wish I knew then what I know now: I had embraced a sick view of love from a person who did not know what healthy love was, let alone how to give it. I wish I also knew that he wasn’t the giver of the love that I needed to nourish my well-being.

My definition of love wasn’t healthy either. I had come to believe that my happiness and self-worth was the result of another person’s actions towards me. When I left my husband, I had to work on re-learning love, especially self-love. I had to go back to the ultimate giver and source of love, which is God. I had to redefine love and embrace that love in order to heal.

To a Christian, God is the wellspring of love. The bible says God is love. It is he who is the giver of love, not out partners. Let’s see how scripture defines love and compare it to the behaviors seen in our abusive relationships. I will paraphrase the definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. (I will be quoting from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman.)

What is love and what is not love?

Love is… patient.

Love allows for your faults without criticizing everything you do. It doesn’t harp on your mistakes to belittle you. It guides you patiently through difficulties by teaching you to overcome your challenges.

Love is… kind.

Love is empathic and compassionate. It produces goodness. It doesn’t make you feel “stupid,” “lazy,” “useless,” “like a failure,” or “unwanted.” It does not ridicule you. It always strives to bring comfort and joy, not fear or pain.

Love is not… jealous.

Love is trusting, not suspicious. It does not spy on you or gather information to use against you. It does not stalk you. Nor does it try to separate you from your friends and family. Love always expects the best and gives you the benefit of the doubt.

Love is not… boastful or proud.

Love is humble. It does not need to be superior or make others feel that they are wrong. Love listens and seeks input. It accepts responsibility rather than seeking blame.

Love is not… rude.

Love is respectful and considerate. It is not aggressive. It does not seek to degrade. Love does not ignore your presence. Love respects you and your needs.

Love does not… demand its own way.

Love thrives on freedom. Where there is love, there is freedom. Love does not demand “my way or the highway”. It is not controlling. It respects your right to make choices, even when they are sometimes wrong. Love accepts and rejoices in the individuality and uniqueness of every one of us.

Love is not… irritable.

Love is self-controlled. It is not easily angered, overly emotional, out of control, and does not experience “fits of rage.” Love is calm and accepts others’ weaknesses and differences.

Love does not… keep a record of wrongs.

Love is forgiving. It does not undermine or erode your confidence by keeping a record of your mistakes. It does not hold grudges. Love moves forward, rather than dwelling on the past.

Love does not… rejoice about injustices.

Love embraces justice. It does not take away your moral and legal rights, which include the right to speak your mind or participate in the decision-making processes, as well as the right to privacy. It does not take away your right to socialize or have your own personal friendships. It does not view its own rights and needs as more important than yours. Love recognizes the value and equality of others.

Love rejoices when truth wins.

Love cannot lie. It never deceives. Love does not keep secrets or twist reality. Rather, it celebrates when the truth is spoken. It does not hide abuse but exposes it. Love is honest and open because it has nothing to hide.

Love never… loses faith.

Love is faithful. It has faith in you and your good character. It has faith in your abilities and accomplishments. Love leads you to believe in yourself.

Love is… always hopeful.

Love has high hopes for the future. It expects improvement and growth. Love seeks ultimate joy and peace for others.

Love endures through every circumstance.

Love does not change with the circumstances. It does not use bad circumstances or outside influences as an excuse for doing wrong or hurting someone. Love endures patiently to achieve what is right.

Love will… last forever.

Love never dies. It does not show itself only when things are going well. It does not disappear during disagreements or conflicts. Love lasts forever.

Form the scriptural definition of love, we can all see that we were not loved in our abusive relationships. Our abusers’ actions did not demonstrate love. To move forward, we have to go to the source of love and embrace God’s love so that we can love ourselves and then love others. When we embrace God’s love, we are empowered to break free from the shackles of abuse.

Paul knew that our inner power is established in understanding God’s love, so he prayed for us in Ephesians 3:16-19: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Put your hope and trust in God’s love. Let your roots grow deeper in his marvelous love so that you may receive the power that comes only from God. This power will allow you to discard all of your dysfunctional forms of love and to love yourself and others the way he intended.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9).

Next blog: Understanding Abuse: The Abused Christian Woman

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November 17, 2017 0 comment
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In my last blog, I discussed denial as the most common reason for accepting abuse. In this blog, I will talk about fear as another reason why a woman might stay in an abusive relationship.

Let’s start by looking at what fear does to the body. Fear activates our body’s alarm systems, just like denial. Unlike denial, which blocks us from experiencing the emotions, fear keeps us stuck in “fight or flight” mode. It allows us to live in a frightful state. As a result, we find ourselves trapped with no relief.

Fear robs us of the energy that we need to function. This lack of energy impacts all areas of our lives, such as taking care of our children or doing our job. The strength needed for these tasks is shifted to thoughts of how to stop the violence and be safe. We become preoccupied with seeking ways to protect ourselves and our children.

I remembered being preoccupied with what was happening at home. I spent many hours trying to make sense of my husband’s abusive behavior towards me and to find ways to escape it. His unpredictable moods kept me in a state of anxiety because I didn’t know when to expect an explosion of verbal threats and intimidation. As a result, I found myself physically and mentally exhausted both on the job and while caring for my three children at home.

Fear stops us from seeking help. We feel helpless and believe that we can’t break free. We fear we cannot change our lives, so we stay. This is where your abuser wants you! He wants you to be in a place where you are afraid to seek accountability for his actions and, consequently, where he can have control over you.

There are many types of fears experienced by the abused woman. A common fear is being blamed for the failure of the relationship. The role of the woman, according to society, is to make the relationship work. Because of this assigned role, we blame ourselves for not doing everything we can to create a happy family. This way of thinking is especially true for the religious woman who has a spiritual component that supports this belief. (I will discuss this aspect in future blogs).

Other types of fears are rejection from family, friends, the community, and, especially for those who are religious, their faith community.

For me, the fear of rejection from Xavier’s family kept me staying in the relationship. My mother died when I was nine years old. My mother-in-law had no daughters, and she treated me like her biological daughter. I was afraid that I would lose her and the relationships I had developed within his extended family.

I know of survivors who lost relationships within their own families. The abuser was successful in manipulating family members to believe his version of what was happening in the home. And when they finally parted, friendships that had formed during the marriage were sometimes sundered as a result of his manipulations.

Fear of rejection and judgment from the faith community is enormous, especially for the Christian woman. She fears that the church will condemn her for wanting to leave her husband. She fears that she will lose her membership in the church and the friends within it. I know of women who had to leave the church when they finally decided to end their abusive marriage. Others stayed because they were afraid to lose their church family. A Christian woman might even fear that she will be punished by God if she leaves the relationship.

For the woman with children, there is the fear that they will lose their father if she leaves, and so to become failures in life. Society has doomed children from abusive relationships to failure. According to statistics, children from abusive relationships also become abusers or victims, or have high potential to use drugs and alcohol. This prognostication reinforces the fear of failure and robs the woman of hope for her children.

I grieve the fact that my children will not have a father who is actively involved in their lives. I made every effort to smooth relations between my children and their father. Only when I realized that it was also his responsibility to nurture his relationship with them, was I able to grieve and let go.

Fear of losing her children keeps the woman in the relationship. Any normal woman cares about her children’s safety and wellbeing. This fear gives the abuser another means of control: he can threaten to harm the children if she leaves him. She might also fear losing custody because she is unable to physically and financially care for them.

Some women rely solely on their partners for financial support. Even those who have jobs and contribute to the household might not have any input into how the money is managed. With few financial resources, it can be difficult to leave the relationship.

But the most important fear is the fear for her life. According to research, seventy-five percent of women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners. In many cases, her attempt to leave is followed by increased threats to stop her.

These are all legitimate fears. But when we let these fears control our lives, it hinders us from seeking change. It also obstructs our ability to see God working in our situation.

It was difficult to accept that I had allowed my fears to stop me from seeking help and taking responsibility for my situation. I had to admit that I made a choice to take no action due to fear. Then I had to go through the painful process of learning to overcome those fears and move forward.

To move forward, you must acknowledge that you made many decisions based on fear. You must evaluate your fears to determine if they are rational or irrational, real or unfounded. Overcoming fears will require identifying them and seeking help. The domestic violence center in your area is an excellent place to seek help. Find resources in your community to help with financial support, childcare, and other tangible fears.

You can check out my website, rosesaad.com/abuse-information/ for contact to resources for assistance.

Safety will always take priority. Please ask for help to develop a safety plan! Be cautious how you deal with your abuser, especially if you decide to leave. Know your abuser and his potential for harm. There are different types of abusers. Some are volatile, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. The potential for harm increases when the abuser has a violent history.

Even when there is no history of physical violence, trust your intuition. If you feel that he has the potential to hurt you, develop a safety plan. I disregarded my intuition as I struggled to answer the question, “How can I believe he loves me when I can’t trust him with my emotional and physical self?” Due to the fear of being belittled and degraded, along with the real possibility of physical harm, I couldn’t be honest with myself. I wish I knew then what I know now, that instilling fear to control others is never an act of love. (I will address love in my next blog.)

Most of my fears were unfounded. My fear of losing my new family did not pan out. I still have a great relationship with my ex-mother-in-law and the rest of her family. My worries about being unable to support myself or the children also weren’t borne out. I was very blessed to have physical and emotional support from my church family and my ex’s family. My college-educated children are pursuing their various professions, and have the incredible hearts to serve others.

As Christians, fear stops us from living the lives that God intended for us. As told in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God wants us to overcome our fears and will be there for us when we do.

As I stated earlier, examine your fears and seek help for the ones that are tangible. Remember that God is on your side as you seek help to overcome your fears. Hold on to his truths because they have the power to set you free.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

 Next blog: Understanding Abuse: Love

 

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