Thursday, February 21, 2008

Response From Dr. Bill

Below is a communication I received from Dr. Bill Maier (Focus on the Family Vice President and Media Spokesperson) in response to my blog post entitled Advice That Can Get a Woman Killed http://womansubmit.blogspot.com/2007/11/advice-that-can-get-woman-killed.html
~~jocelyn andersen

Hi Jocelyn,

My name is Bill Maier, and I’m a clinical psychologist at Focus on the Family in Colorado. I saw your blog posting about my response to a “Weekend Magazine” listener who had been abused by her husband. Your criticism regarding my “confrontation” advice was right on target and I’ve revised the column accordingly.

Here’s a link to the revised page:

http://listen.family.org/askdrbill/A000000380.cfm

I want you to know that I’ve challenged the evangelical church to acknowledge the issue of domestic abuse during several Focus on the Family radio broadcasts. Here’s a link to our web page devoted to the topic of physical and sexual abuse (from our TroubledWith.com) website:

http://www.troubledwith.com/AbuseandAddiction/PhysicalVerbalAbuse.cfm

Thanks for your commitment to this critical issue.

Bill

4 comments:

h said...

He still recommends the book from Dobson that basically says the same thing he just 'revised'. I guess its some progress, but it also shows they are clearly still blind.

Barbara said...

Yes I agree, H.
I call on Dr James Dobson to publicly renounce and apologise for the unwise things he said about domestic abuse in his book Love Must Be Tough.
Barbara Roberts www.notunderbondage.com

Barbara said...

I've just looked at the two links that Dr Bill gave above. The second one had another link that led to a question and answer (with answer written directly by James Dobson). The link was http://www.troubledwith.com/AbuseandAddiction/A000000992.cfm?topic=abuse%20and%20addiction%3a%20physical%20and%20verbal%20abuse

I'm copying the text here:
BEGIN QUOTE:
Question and Answer

How should a wife deal with her husband's abusive tendencies?

The principles of Love Must Be Tough offer the best response to an abusive husband. They begin with a recognition that behavior does not change when things are going smoothly. If change is to occur, it usually does so in a crisis situation. Thus, a crisis must be created and managed very carefully.

After moving out and making it clear that the woman has no intention of returning, the ball moves to her husband's court. If he never responds, she never returns. If it takes a year, or five years, then so be it. He has to want her badly enough to face his problem and to reach out to her. When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin. A plan can be agreed upon that involves intensive Christian counseling with a person of the wife's choosing. She should not return home until the counselor concludes that she will be safe and that the husband is on the way to recovery. Gradually, they put their relationship back together.

It's a long shot but one worth working to achieve.
Answered by James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Excerpted from Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide by James C. Dobson Ph.D., published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
END QUOTE

Dobson is dangerously wrong in his advice. Firstly, he advises the victim to 'create' a crisis. That's plain dangerous. Abuser may retaliate unpredictably and viciously. The victim could be murdered. Dobson could be guilty in a court of law for 'complicity before the fact' should the abuser be charged with murder.

Secondly, Dobson is in fairyland to imagine that the victim can 'manage' any such crisis. Has he forgotten that the abuser is a power and control freak and can be unrelentingly cruel and vicious? How can anyone 'manage' such a person? Maybe Dobson knows something that the rest of us don't, but if he does I wish he would tell the UN and NATO and the White House so that we can 'manage' Bin Laden and all the rest of the terrorists and all settle down for a nice cup of tea.

Thirdly, if Dobson says that when the husband acknowledges that he has an abuse problem and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin. Dobson ignores the fact that abusers characteristically acknowledge SOME (small) aspects of the wrong they have done, in order to appear reasonable and civil human beings in front of professionals. It's too easy for the abuser to take this stance, make nice sounding promises, then PRESTO he catches the victim again because Dobson has said they should 'negotiate' to go into counseling. Dobson implies clearly that this is joint counseling, because the woman gets to choose the counselor. (Why would he give her the say over which counselor unless he assumes she will be attending the counseling along with the abuser?)
Dobson has clearly read none of the professional literature which says joint counselling is a NO NO in domestic abuse, or at least not until much work has been done by the abuser himself. Dobson has clearly read no other literature from DV professionals which says that abusers don't need counseling (as in therapy or family counseling), they need education in programs that are designed specifically for abusers to bring about attitudinal and behavioral change. And that most abusers who attend such programs do not change sufficiently to cease abusing their intimate partners, even when they complete the program.

Finally, Dobson says the couple may live together once the therapist has decided that the husband is sufficiently 'on the way to recovery'. Most counsellors and family therapists, including (or especially?) Christian ones, judge this too early in favour of the abuser. We could tell Dobson many stories of just such scenarios, where the abuse recurred after a managed separation/counselling period. And the abuse usually recurrs at the same severity or worse.

Dobson is dangerous. Dobson is deluded. Or worse.

Danni said...

"After moving out and making it clear that the woman has no intention of returning, the ball moves to her husband's court. If he never responds, she never returns. If it takes a year, or five years, then so be it. He has to want her badly enough to face his problem and to reach out to her. When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin. A plan can be agreed upon that involves intensive Christian counseling with a person of the wife's choosing. She should not return home until the counselor concludes that she will be safe and that the husband is on the way to recovery. Gradually, they put their relationship back together.

It's a long shot but one worth working to achieve."


Barbara's comments were right on target!!!!!

There were a couple things in here - whether they were intended or not, I found them interesting - that the church could learn from.

Dobson appears to be reflecting a potentially different attitude than most churches.

1. He validates the power of the wife to be proactive and hold the line. He says she can make clear she is not returning - though I get the distinct impression this is intended to be deceptive? Either she has no intention of returning or she does! And God isn't going to let manipulation triumph - manipulation is evil, no matter who does it.

Does she really have the authority to say she will not return -- and have that decision both respected and supported by the church? I have never seen that happen. Not to say there are not churches that won't go there, but those who do are operating against established practice and theology among both fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.


2. "If he never responds, she never returns." Again, this goes against established teaching in both fundamentalist and evangelical churches.

However, this statement falls short of the line. What happens if he never responds? Is the church going to leave her in eternal limbo - locked into relationship with him? This eternal limbo leaves the abuser in control because he holds her still! Or will churches dare to take the next obvious step and invoke I Cor. 7:15 - the unbeliever who has abandoned the relationship, thereby leaving her the door of divorce?

Just because the abuser makes a persistent "profession of faith" does not make him a believer! We are challenged to evaluate fruit - the fruit declares the truth here.

What Dobson doesn't say is that most of the churches who will support a separation in the case of abuse, will sentence that victim to eternal limbo since they believe abuse is not grounds for divorce. There are a pile of reasons this is unbiblical - which can't be explored in depth here.

That said, I have to say that I agree with Barbara emphatically on this. This statement reflects a woeful misunderstanding of the nature of "Christian" abusers. They may be willing to mistreat their families, but they are not willing to lose their status - which includes other people's perceptions of them in the church.

"Christian" abusers will play a very long game of apparent compliance to retain face and retain control of their victims. Their motivation is control - they will not throw in the towel just because their wife left them! They can out-play just about anything the church has to offer.

The church's continued persistence in the delusion that they know what they are doing with abuse plays right into the hands of abusers.

3. I appreciate the fact that Dobson persists in "leaving the control" in the hands of the wife even after the abuser has admitted he has a problem and is willing to submit to counseling. This again, is in direct opposition to commonly taught ideas in both fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.

However, I have to say, it is such a tiny step away it still leaves the door wide open for disaster.

First, the focus is on externals here, and wives can "see" past externals to truth the church isn't willing to look at. Will the wife's judgment be respected if she says he is faking, even if he appears to be doing and saying everything right? I know she won't be respected!

The church will question her motives - since she has an evil heart, too, and is probably being deceived by it. After all, "we" have to remember she probably just wants a divorce and she's determined to make that happen - right?

It is the common practice for abusers to play it all perfectly for public view and still be saying the same old things to their wife in private. And some of those things are very difficult for someone outside the relationship to grasp, unless they are very familiar with the dynamics of abuse.

For instance, persistant disrespect reflected in many "small" ways would tell me he isn't repentant - he's playing the game. And continued threats of harm in private while weaping on the altar in public are very common!

4. "When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin."

This statement leaves control in the hands of the wife - this is a huge difference in Dobson's statement, as opposed to the typical teaching of fundamentalist and evangelical churches.

However, there is another misnomer hidden in here.

Up to this point, Dobson empowers the victim. Now, all the sudden, the gears have shifted to "negotiation." Negotiation is always a give and take between two parties - I give a little, he gives a little, and we meet somewhere in the middle.

The abuser just won the game! And the church just took away every bit of leverage from the victim. If the victim is required to negotiate - the abuser always wins! But the church is patting itself on the back for being so reasonable - and not like those churches that just won't deal with abuse.

5. Unfortunately, Dobson goes down hill at a fast clip after he hits "negotiation." Then he leaves the time and terms of reconciliation in the hands of the counselor. What???

Let me state the obvious here - if Dobson's suggestion were adopted as a policy of churches, abusers would know all they have to do is jump through the counseling hoop and they get their victim back under their control. Any abuser can "play" a Christian counselor.

Christian counselors operate under a mistaken confidence that they know what they're doing with abuse - which is grossly erroneous. And a "Christian" abuser can tie them up in knots from the very first moments of the very first counseling session - I guarantee it. I've watched it happen again and again.

The next thing you know that counselor will be telling that victim to return to the abuser because the abuser plays a perfect game. And the church becomes a de facto abuser in the hands of the victim's abuser.

And Dobson has just demonstrated that victims of abuse are still not safe in the church, even with his significant attempts at approving existing church practice and policy.

6. "It's a long shot but one worth working to achieve."

I appreciate the fact that Dobson acknowledges it is a long shot! I haven't seen that attitude in any fundamentalist or evangelical church yet! (Again, not to say it isn't there somewhere, but where ever it may exist it is outside the norm.)

BUT - after all this carefully constructed and evaluated planning of what to do about abuse, Dobson stops short of completing the subject.

Since it is a long shot (even longer than he acknowedges, given the misunderstandings still present) - what is that victim supposed to do if the long shot doesn't pay off? No answer?

The avoidance of this question seems telling in its ringing silence. It seems avoidance is easier than dealing with unpleasant realities.

But those realities are the daily truth for victims of abuse in the church!

-- Danni

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