Sunday, July 21, 2019

A note from Jocelyn

I pray the many articles posted on this blog will be valuable resources to readers. I write about many other things as well (There is life after domestic violence!) Please visit my main website at

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What is Domestic Abuse?

...Marital abuse / domestic violence is nothing less than war waged in the battlefield of what should be a sanctuary, a safe-haven, to everyone...the home.
    It is a shameful, sometimes fatal, and often secret, war.
   What Angelina Grimke wrote of slavery in the 19th Century, applies just as much to domestic abuse in the 21st.
    “TELL IT NOT in Gath. Publish it NOT in the streets of Askelon….” They never suspected that many of the gentlemen and ladies who came from the South to spend the summer months in traveling among them were petty tyrants at home.
    --Angelina Emily Grimke, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, 1838
   What is domestic abuse? Domestic abuse is WAR (both psychological and physical warfare) waged in the home, usually in secret, against members of one’s own family, most especially perpetrated by husbands against wives.
    Does domestic abuse and violence take place within professing Christian families? As of this writing, Google currently lists over 400,000 entries for the search term “Christian Domestic Violence Seminars.” Does that answer the question?
    Enough domestic abuse takes place within professing Christian homes that addressing the issue has become a popular cause within the Christian community. But all the seminars in the world will not change a thing regarding domestic abuse and domestic violence until church leaders eliminate the policy of female submission to male leadership, for that is what lies at the very heart of the issue and is what perpetuates it.
    It is a doctrine of systematic, institutionalized, discrimination that not only perpetuates abuse but also prevents Christians from responding compassionately, knowledgeably, biblically, and effectively to victims of abuse.

This article is an excerpt from the book, Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery, & the Evangelical Caste System, by Jocelyn Andersen.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Should Abused Wives get Divorced?

The second question I received during my interview on the IMPACT RADIO USA "Family Talk" podcast [about Christian response to domestic violence] had to do with divorce and did I recommend it?

A few of the questions I was asked:
  • God hates divorce. How do you advise women [in abusive marriages] concerning divorce?
  • What kinds of adverse effect do boys experience who grow up watching fathers abusing their mothers? 
  • How do you break the pattern of abuse?
Listen to my answers HERE

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

What if an abuser is not physically abusive? Should a wife Leave him then?

In 2003, when I experienced the horrific assault described in the first chapter of, Woman Submit!, the Holy Spirit had been dealing with me for some weeks prior, about how very much God hates it when his children are mistreated. And no one disagreed that I needed to leave that violent man. In fact, It was my Pastor who encouraged me to divorce him. And it was my Pastor's wife who assisted me in completing and filing my petition for divorce.

God not only hates it when his daughters are abused, He also hates it, when spiritual leaders and trusted advisors refuse to do everything in their power to get a woman to safety, because, in their theological opinion, it may compromise wifely submission and respect towards an abusive husband.

It is never wrong to ask, "are you safe?" It is never wrong to advise a woman to leave a dangerous spouse. But is it wrong to advise her to leave an abusive husband who is not physically violent?

This brings us to the question, about whether a non-violent husband can be considered a physical threat  to his wife. And if advising a woman to leave a non-violent abuser is the appropriate Christian response to her unhappy situation. What if her husband is verbally and emotionally abusive but does not batter her? Can he be considered a danger, then? Many would say, No. But I disagree. I say, all abusive husbands are--or are potentially--physical threats to their wives.

What about the wife who is advised to stay, pray, and submit, and is ultimately driven to suicide by such callous advice and by her husband's verbal and emotional cruelties? That husband was a not only a physical danger to his wife but ultimately her murderer. Those who guilted her through religious terrorism also become her murders. Her blood is on many hands.

What about the wife who's health is neglected because her non-violent abuser controls the finances and uses economic abuse to manipulate her options? He successfully prevents her from getting the health and dental care she may [desperately] need. Her health deteriorates. She lives a substandard life, perhaps becomes disabled, a terminal disease is allowed to run its course, and she ultimately dies because of the abuse. Who can say that "non-violent" abuser was not physical threat to his wife?

A husband need not batter a wife to place her life and health at risk. The question, "Are you safe," entails much more than the obvious, "Does he hit you?"

Neglect caused by economic, verbal and emotional abuse [and manipulation] is physically dangerous. And God hates it when his children are subjected to this kind of treatment. He really hates when people who profess to know Him, advise His daughters who are in such circumstances, to stay, pray, and imperil their lives for the sake of religion.

Monday, June 25, 2018

75% higher chance of dying when you try to leave: The CHARLENE HUMMERT Tragedy

Remember the TV series, Forensic files? I was a watching a rerun  and it turned out the woman's killer was her husband of twenty years. 
   Charlene Hummert was a Christian woman, beloved by many, who had been married for twenty years and never reported a single instance of domestic violence or abuse.
   But the abuse was happening.
   There was one incident of child abuse that she reported against her husband. Charlene was not about to allow her children to be abused. But she never uttered a word about the abuse she was experiencing against herself--not to her Pastor, not to anyone.
   Finally, after 20 years of marriage, Hummert  had, had enough. And said so.
   He killed her as she was leaving. 
   One of THE most dangerous times for a woman experiencing domestic violence or abuse, is when she is leaving. Even, as in Charlene Hummert's case, when there had been no previous physical abuse. Any kind of abuse can turn physical if the abuser becomes desperate enough. And the most desperate moment for any abuser, is when their victim is walking out the door. 

Advice for women experiencing violence or abuse:
   It is important to have a plan for safely exiting the home that includes letting the abuser know you are leaving, only after you have left and are in a safe place. Charlene Hummert's story is a tragic example of what can happen if the abuse is kept secret and a safe exit plan is not followed.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Good Mothers Do not Lose Custody of Their Children

   Old ideas about divorce and child custody shattered when I attended the annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference, where I spent a weekend with over 200 non-Custodial Protective Parents (mostly mothers) and Custodial Protective parents (again, mostly mothers) who through their efforts to protect their children, either lost custody of their children or live under the constant threat of losing custody of them to the abuser. 
   Many of the protective mothers I met are members of churches across the nation. I met non-custodial protective mothers who told me they how they long to fit in and just be a normal mom like the other mom's at church, but in addition to the horrific details of their lives, feel they cannot even attend their fellowship's MOPS group for mom's because of the stigma and shame attached to being a mother who lost custody of her children.
   The old stereotype persists
that good mothers do not lose custody of their children.
   But this is simply not true. And it is past time for Christians to educate themselves as to what is happening within the United States family court systems.
   As we strive to be light and salt to those within our spheres of influence, as we strive to be obedient to the command to "Bear one another's burdens" let's be aware of the protective mothers in our midst, who may or may not (as yet) have lost custody of their children. And let us begin to lovingly support these parents as they struggle with a horrendous reality that is incomprehensible to most of us. Sometimes that can be costly in terms of emotional investment, time, and even money. To their credit, one church in Central Florida, went so far as to pay the legal fees for one battered mother to regain custody of her children from their abusive father. 
   This church was not complementarian, so had no issues with supporting a mother wife who refused to be "submissive" and divorced an abusive husband. Refusal of male-headship churches to respond when possible victims of domestic abuse are identified is both a contributing and exacerbating factor in abuse and subsequent child custody issues  among church members.
   In cases of divorce, most loving fathers agree that children (especially babies and small children) need their mothers. A child's first primary relationship is usually with its mother. Although a protective parent can be either a mother or a father, it is usually the mother. If a mother is abusive, this writer agrees that a loving father should be granted custody, but the sad fact is, that many (probably the majority) of the fathers who sue for custody, are abusers of both their wives and children. In attempting to protect their child[ren] from abuse or sexual molestation, protective mothers risk being called liars and experiencing retaliation [or the threat of retaliation] by the family court system, in being accused of parental alienation (PAS) and of having their child/children ripped from them [often despite overwhelming evidence substantiating the abuse] and placed in the home of the abuser. 
   Family courts operate outside the criminal justice system. The two systems operate under completely different and unequal standards of investigating reports of abuse. This often results in evidence of criminal acts not ever being report to or being investigated by the police (only investigated by "case-workers" and "guardian ad litem's"). It is common, the family court system, for criminal acts never being brought to prosecution. 
   Additionally, protective mothers who report crimes against their children [by the abusive parent] often find they are ones penalized by having to endure the additional heartache and stigma of being granted only supervised visits with their children, in some cases not even being allowed to touch them during the visits.
   Can you imagine, no hugs allowed
   Some mothers lose relationships with their children altogether because of unjust custody rulings and the stiff protocol that comes with many supervised visit rulings. Children are robbed of close loving relationship with a loving parent--often their only loving parent. This is beyond crime. It is pure evil.
   And this is happening
   Good mothers do lose custody of their children. And they attend our churches. Visit the links in this post for more information about the family court holocaust that has been devastating American families for decades.

Protective mothers who read this, we ask that you comment to this post with suggestions as to how we can give you the support you need. What is it that you need most from your friends and family in Christ?

Monday, December 18, 2017

How the Church can Show Love and Support to Non-Custodial Protectetive Mothers

Author and former non-custodial mom, Waneta Dawn, wrote the comment below on one of my blog posts. Any Christian who is interested in responding to domestic abuse or domestic /violence compassionately and biblically, needs a basic understanding of the family issues that could be involved. Below, is a slightly edited version of Waneta's story. to read her entire comment, go to the "GOOD MOTHERS DON'T LOSE CUSTODY," post on the Dorcas Network blog:

Thank-you for this opportunity to share some of the support needs a non-custodial parent has. In my case, the judge awarded my daughter to her dad--the man who abused me, and only allowed me every other week-end, 2 weeks in the summer, and approximately 1/3 of holidays, although it was called 1/2. They didn't count minor holidays, and the court document frequently allowed me to have her 4 days during the Christmas holidays, while giving my ex the remaining 10 days. I was allowed one day every other year at Thanksgiving, while my ex got the other day one year and both days the next year. I was allowed no visitation on no-school days that were not connected to a holiday. I was not allowed any mid-week visitation, unless my ex chose to allow it. Far too often he would tell us we could have a particular mid-week evening together, and then when I went to pick her up, would deny us that time. We never knew if we would actually get to have time together.

I share these details so that you will understand how this impacts a child of divorced parents going to sleep-overs, birthday parties, church functions--especially all night ones.

If the event occurred on my weekend, I often did not allow her to go, and people did not support me in that, and pressured me to let her go to their events. They did not seem to understand the yearning, the longing in my heart to be with my daughter and to parent her (her dad chose a "sugar-daddy combined with neglect" style of parenting, and I had a huge responsibility to try to compensate so that my daughter could succeed in school and in life. She needed MORE than those four days a month with me, not less.

A night of fun with friends cannot possibly make up for a lack of quality parenting. May I comment here that I'm not sure why people seem inclined to offer what appears to be genuine caring at special events, but the rest of the time behave as if we are too undesirable to socialize with. The double message is very confusing, and I'm more inclined to believe the week-to-week message than the special occasion one.

Even if her dad had been the perfect father, I still would have wanted those 4 days a month with my child. (that's 26 fewer days than other parents have with their children!)

I understand most parents see their children every day, and may welcome an evening of freedom from that responsibility. In my case, my daughter desperately NEEDED me and I desperately needed and wanted time with her. To deny her yet another day would have been neglectful and would have suggested to her that I really didn't want her--a message her dad was already telling her. To deal with this issue, I often asked to be allowed to be present and/or to help out at birthday parties. If they were all-night ones we often chose not to stay the night. In addition, if my daughter went to a sleep over (even if I was present at the sleep over) the next day she would spend a large portion of the time sleeping. That meant I would essentially lose BOTH days of my weekend, and I may not be allowed to see her or speak to her again for 12 long days. Her dad often refused to allow telephone or any other contact between us, too. This was so painful, for awhile I visited her at school when my work permitted.

I so appreciated the comment one woman made to me. I don't recall the exact words, but I do recall the feeling of being 100% understood and supported. She said she tried to imagine what it would be like to not be allowed to be with her children, to be a part of their lives and parent them every day, and that the thought was so horrid to her, she felt sure she would be devastated and barely able to handle it if her children were kept from her. It was very difficult to even think about--the thought was so painful.

Another place support is needed is when the single mom needs people to be open with, people who will listen to her pain and grief and genuinely CARE. I admit I'm a talker. I lived alone, I worked alone. I had no human being to talk to most of the time. It was painful at church when people wanted to limit our conversations to the 30 second variety of "hi, great weather, bye." And then they went home to their husbands and children, and I went home alone--again.

Suggestions that I go to a counselor felt like a slap in the face. It felt like they were saying I was unimportant, unwanted, that I needed to PAY someone to take the time to listen to me, to share my pain. I did try the counselor route, and it did not help. It only made the pain of my loneliness and my longing for my daughter all the more raw. It highlighted the lack of genuine caring of those around me.

Another source of pain was that they never called me to ask how I was, how my week was going. I had to call them. They usually talked to me, but also excused themselves if their children came home from school, if their husband was home from work, whatever. I finally understood that they really did not want to talk to me, and I tried very hard to stop calling, in spite of my huge need for emotional support. (When I didn't get support for a week or so, I tended to get very stressed, which resulted panic attacks.) No one called or made an effort to keep up the relationship. I guess I was seen as too needy, perhaps as someone who "sucked the life out of them."

I started keeping my mouth shut. With God's help I carried the burden alone, deciding it must be too much for people to handle. I thought perhaps they wanted me to help them carry their burdens, even though I was dealing with a super-full load of major trauma myself. But keeping mum about my situation. Asking them about theirs didn't result in close or long-term friendships, either.

Even if I was successful at laying aside my own grief and pain, I still had no trust-worthy spouse to consult about parenting, about my daughter's needs. Although some women did listen to me, I often got the sense from their suggestions that they didn't understand.

In addition, my daughter needed one or two men to step forward and model for her what a respectful, loving dad was like, but men (and their wives) shied away from that, too. I didn't want to leave her alone with a man, I just thought if perhaps a family would include the two of us in their family time at least once a month, and allow my daughter to be their daughter, too, that could meet her need to see real manhood in action. But that didn't happen, either. It took a school teacher, secular and bordering on atheist, to show her what a father-figure is like.

I lived like that for 8 years, trying different churches, looking for a place to fit in, especially for the support my daughter needed.

When she was nearly 15, my daughter came to live with me, but then went to see her dad every other weekend. For a long time the pain of being allowed to see her so seldom and never knowing if I could see her even on court-mandated times, made me unwilling to part with her for sleep overs, etc. Indeed, I had to parent very carefully, making sure I did not demand too much, because that could send her back to living with her dad. So my daughter has not been raised like your children have.

For 8 years she lived with a man who did not teach her discipline, yet expected her to be able to handle adult skills. When she came to live with me when she was in 9th grade, the focus for the first 4 years was to help her develop the discipline, study and communication skills, to succeed in school.

Now that she's in college, that is still the focus. I can't expect her to help around the house much, since school is hard for her--frequently from her poor choices in time management--which is a throwback to her days with her sugar-daddy. What I'm trying to say is that the traits you don't like in children who are from single-parent homes, may not be from the mother's inadequate parenting, or just because they are from a "broken home." It may be because of the threats, nastiness, and traumas the abuser in their lives continues to use to maintain power over his ex-wife.

Asking a non-custodial mom what you can do to help is key. Be willing to discuss and help Mom figure out what she needs. Please, don't appear to listen, but be mentally elsewhere. It is very frustrating to have to repeat what you've said, yet to be blamed for your much speaking.

If the Mother lost primary physical care and only sees her child(ren) a limited number of days, don't pressure Mom to allow you to act as "big brother" or "big sister" by taking the child to a movie or other fun stuff so Mom has more time away from her child(ren). Neither Mom nor children need more time away from one another. They have plenty of apart-time as it is. Whatever you offer for the child(ren) offer to include Mom, too.

Closing comment from Jocelyn:

I have spoken with Waneta Dawn, and found she is delightful to visit with. On the other hand, I have spoken with non-custodial moms who were so traumatized by what was happening in their lives that we were hard-pressed to carry on a coherent conversation. The first time that happened, I just wanted to get off the phone and away from the distraught woman on the other end of the line. I thought she was an absolute nut case and in need of serious psychiatric help--which by that time, she may have been. But it was in the midst of that first chaotic conversation with a non-custodial parent, that the Holy Spirit quietly spoke to my heart and said, "Listen."

So, rather than finding a convenient excuse to hang up the phone--which was exactly what I wanted to do--I listened. And in spite of the chaotic words spilling from the non-custodial mother's mouth, I began to hear her heart. And the heart I heard was full of pain and unspeakable anguish.

Church, we gotta step up to the plate. The Bible says we rejoice with those who rejoice and we weep with those who weep. Sometimes all we can do is weep with a brother or sister who has lost children to an unjust legal system. Let's don't shy away from that privilege, but let's realize, that sometimes we can do more.

Thank you Waneta for being so transparent in telling your story, for giving us a peek into a life most of us have no comprehension of, and most of all, for suggesting ways we can get involved and truly help.

Waneta Dawn is author of the novel, Behind The Hedge,