Friday, August 26, 2016

When Abusers Follow Their Victims to Church

What can we do to protect women and children when abusers show up at church and pose a threat to everyone or deliberately create fear and chaos as they attempt to regain control of victims who have left the abusive and often physically dangerous environments of their homes? 

One thing not to do is evict victims of abuse from our churches, and let's not kid ourselves, that happens all to often. 

Rather, show support and love for church members who are trying to escape the barbarity of abuse by encouraging them to participate as fully as possible with their church communities while taking steps to keep themselves safe--as we do the same. 

Because of the dangerous climate due to terrorism these days, many churches already take added security measures by hiring security guards for their church services. Why not assure women whose lives are filled with terror because of abusive spouses, that their presence is welcome in our churches, that their safety is important to us? Why not ask them if we can allow our security personnel--whether  they are volunteer staff or professionals--to keep an especially close eye on them and their children, so they can relax and enjoy their church experience along with the rest of us? 

Take the time to assure these women that instead of being kicked out of church if their abusers show up to make threats or cause scenes especially designed to control and humiliate them--cause them to be ostracized by their church families--that we will rally around them more determined than ever to show how much we love and support them. 

At the same time, be aware that these men can often pose a significant threat to others, besides their immediate families. Domestic violence calls rank high on the list of the most dangerous calls police officers take in terms of danger to the officers themselves. Do not shrink from calling 911 to have an abuser arrested if he is there to disturb the peace or is in violation of a restraining order. 

Reach out to, and affirm, victims of spousal abuse as they move forward in efforts to create more stable, peaceful, and safe lives for themselves and their families.