Monday, July 13, 2020

When Victims are Discriminated Against by Those They Turn to for Help

  I know what it feels like to be abused and be more afraid of the reaction I might get from those I would ask for help than I was of the abuser. 
   That fear almost cost me my life. 
   I hear the same from other victims and survivors, and studies confirm that fear is widespread and justified. 
   There are more similarities between Christian and non-Christian victims of abuse than differences, but one difference is the reason many Christian women do not "just leave."
   "Abused Christian women are more likely to remain in or return to unsafe relationships, citing religious beliefs to support avoidance of ‘family break-ups’ despite abuse." But what if a woman is killed by her abusive husband? Wouldn't that break up a family? 
   Violent abusers are dangerous people. They are dangerous not only to their wives but also to their children. A shocking number of children are murdered by fathers who are wife-beaters.   Additionally, domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous for law enforcement. 
   Despite these well documented facts, the danger to victims is routinely minimized by those who Christian women are most likely to turn to for help--the leadership of their churches and law enforcement. 
   Still today, bias against abused and battered women is real and prevalent. I experienced it first-hand in my own case some two decades ago and more recently in 2019 and 2020, while advocating for others. The bias comes from Christians, Christian leadership, and from law enforcement. "Because of the bias, survivors largely do not get the help they need or simply don’t call the police at all assuming they won’t get help." 
   This is simply unacceptable.  
  Compassionate and knowledgeable Christian response to domestic violence involves more than simply advising women to get themselves and their children out of the danger-zone.  It may involve encouraging a woman to report the abuse. It involves holding abusers accountable both spiritually and legally--church discipline if they are professing Christians and if assault and battery is involved, arrest and prosecution. 
   Christian women are often taught that wifely submission and patiently enduring abuse are godly attributes. Those who are taught this in church and some having heard it their entire lives, are often reluctant to get on the wrong side of God by having abusive husbands arrested. 
   Strong beliefs about gender roles can be deeply ingrained in the psyche's of both abuser and abused, so here are a few ways we can stop being part of the problem of domestic abuse and domestic violence and become part of the solution:
  •  Do not discriminate against victims by shaming them for their choices of who they married or whether they choose to stay or not to stay in their abusive situation. 
  • Do not discriminate by making your help conditional on promises to "never to go back." 
  • Do realize that economics may play a part in a victim's decision on whether or not to report the abuse or leave, especially if the victim is a stay-at-home-mom with no income of her own. 
  • Know what resources in your area are available to her. 
  • If possible, render tangible aid to her and her family. 
  • Know that she will experience sometimes overwhelming fear. 
   Her abuser wields strong emotional control over her. And if she has chosen to leave her home, understand that fear and strong feelings of displacement (most especially the first few weeks) will work against her resolve not to return to her abuser. 
   These are just a few reasons victims need strong emotional support during a confusing and frightening time. Take care not to re-victimize by discriminating against victims of abuse. 
   That is also abuse.
  Learning to respond compassionately and knowledgeably to domestic violence makes us part of the solution in ending discrimination against victims of domestic violence. 

Insights into Christian response to domestic violence will benefit those experiencing abuse as well as those they are most likely to turn to for help. This book provides clear scriptural direction, straight answers, and some tough challenges from one who has been there but is there no longer. 

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?