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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you? What thoughts dominate your mind?

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

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

 

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August 6, 2018 0 comment
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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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