Domestic abuse

Questions and answers concerning domestic abuse

Someone reached out to me with some questions concerning certain aspects of domestic abuse. This is not the first time I’ve had such questions from readers and others. I’ve worked with pastors who wanted to understand DV better and to understand the needs of women who have been abused.

I’m not a trained DV expert. I am a woman who has lived with abusers most of my life. I’ve experienced it at the hands of parents, husband, other family, and even wolves in a church I once attended. I’ve studied it extensively when I was co-authoring a book on the subject. However, the most important aspect of understanding domestic abuse is to know what God has to say on this subject. It is always Him that we are to seek to honor and obey, no matter what the subject might be.

So, towards that end, the questions…

Why do I say women will lie about being abused?

Worldly women will lie and say they have been abused, raped, attacked, etc., when they haven’t. It’s often a ploy for attention, for revenge, and so on. Some men’s lives have been horribly impacted by such lies.

Do abuse victims lie about being abused?

Being abused is humiliating and embarrassing and not the kind of thing that just comes up in conversation. It’s often dangerous to tell the truth about the abuse you are suffering under as your abuser may decide to punish you or those you love simply for the crime of you admitting that you are being abused or reaching out for help. Some abusers will kill or threaten to do so to protect their cruel secret. A woman who is being abused (or who has been) is far more likely to lie (if she lies at all) to cover up the abuse than she is to magnify it. This is especially true of Christian women.

How can I identify an abuser?
Abusers are two-faced. They can seem to be the nicest, kindest, people around. They might claim to be Christians, have a great knowledge of Scripture, show care for the needs of their family and others, give generously to the church, volunteer when there is a need. Abusers are very good at pretending to be what they aren’t.

Abusers are, in actuality, cruel men who deceive, manipulate, and work on your sympathy. He is one person at home and quite another in public. That’s why it’s important for the church to listen to their victims. A godly woman won’t lie and say she’s been abused when she hasn’t. A man pretending to be godly but who isn’t, will lie and claim he’s not been abusive when he has. If ever they are confronted in their sin, abusers might claim to be the victim of a crazy narcissist.

Look at the wives and children of these men. Do they flinch around him? Refuse to talk, deferring to him? Does the wife wear heavy makeup, sunglasses, or long-sleeves even in Summer? Do they walk stiffly or move slowly or gingerly? Do they look weary? Seem careworn? All this and more can be evident in the wives and children of abusers.

And if the victims manage to somehow get away from him, it doesn’t mean they are safe. Abusers will do everything in their power to continue to maintain control over his victims through threats, withholding financial help, lying, and so on. Some have retaliated through threats of murder or by committing murder.

2 Timothy 2: 3-5 describes abusers well, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

So much of these verses applies to men who falsely pretend to be godly but are uch men appear to be godly but they aren’t. They are dangerous, especially to their families.

What do women who have been abused need from their church?
First and foremost, abused wives, like everyone else, needs the pure, plain, and simple Gospel. We need truth, not watered down, not filtered through the lens of feminism, wokeness, or culture. We also need kindness and understanding.

When you’ve been abused, the trauma lingers, even once the abuse itself is over. When a woman first manages to get away from the abuse, her life is a mess. She has to figure out how to stay safe, how to provide for herself and her children, how to heal, how to achieve stability and normalcy (and, perhaps, even to the point of defining and understanding it for the first time), and she’s often doing it all alone.

Most churches do not understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and do not know how to help those who have been abused. The Lord says we are to love Him supremely and others as ourselves. We’re to help the oppressed, be concerned for widows and orphans, and show kindness to the needy. We’re to do to others as we want them to do to us. I cannot believe anyone wants to be treated the way many in the church have treated me and my children.

Here’s the problem: I am not a widow but for most of my marriage, I functioned as one. When my husband was home, he was often either sleeping, demanding to be waited on hand and foot while he yelled at us, fussed at us, or was otherwise demeaning or abusing us, or creating problems of other kinds. He spent as much time away from home as he could. He would go to work and stay gone long after the time came when he ought to have been home. He’d go out for milk and come back hours later. This remained true almost the entirety of our marriage, broken up only by the honeymoon phrases that all abusers take their victims through.

I’m still not a widow. I am separated and, once I can afford it, I will be divorced. In the meantime, my husband has continued to withhold the funds that were ours through dependents SS, also known as SSA and even of the stimulus funds that ought to have been ours (made possible because he claimed us on his tax refund). I’ve been alone in paying for rent, food, clothes, utilities, anything related to education, and anything else my children have needed.

I’m not a widow but I don’t have a husband. I never had a husband who functioned as a husband. He was an unfaithful man who failed to support us as Scripture requires, caused pain and dissention, lied, took money we needed for food and wasted it, ran up bills in my name and my son’s name and didn’t pay them. Filed bankruptcy three times (twice with my name attached). He tore our family apart spiritually, financially, physically, emotionally, etc. He moved us endlessly so we wouldn’t have roots or people we could depend on. I needed help so many times from the church and I’d reach out only to be told there was nothing they could do, no advice they could give, no help they could offer, no remedy they could supply. So I was alone. I was married but I functioned as a single mother and as a widow without any help or guidance from my pastors or elders.

I’m still married but I function as a single mother and a widow. I’ve heard people call women in my situation grace widows. Whatever name you want to attach to it, the truth remains the same: If I’d truly been a widow, the church might have come alongside of me and helped me. Because I legally had and have a husband, I am and was pretty much ignored.

So many times, I was made to feel very much like a leper. Pastors sometimes blamed me for the dysfunction. I was told that if I were only a better wife, he might step up to be a better husband. I was kicked out of the office of my pastor in GA when I reached out for help. He told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t counsel and I wasn’t to come back to him. I’ve been the victim of lies in churches. I have received unkind emails from pastors, elders, and deacons (all in different churches). Sadly, I’m not alone in this. I’ve known of churches that kicked out women who left their abuser while giving comfort to the abuser and believing his lies.

If a church is truly seeking to honor God and to love the brethren, these things would not happen. It’s far too easy for Christians to get caught up in the day to day of living while ignoring that family over there who is dying a little bit more every single day. I was the mother of that family, a family that desperately needed the help only the family of God could have given and it was refused.

In correspondence with one of my pastors not that long ago, I told him I felt so utterly alone. I asked for advice. Begged for help. The response? “I’m sorry you feel alone. I’ll pray for you.”

What do abused women need from their churches? For you to put hands to your prayers and do unto her as if she were your daughter, your sister, or your mother.

Feminism seems to have more answers for those who have been abused than churches do. Is this really the case?
Feminism isn’t the friend to women most want to believe it is. I agree that the church hasn’t always known how to help those who are being abuse. I wish it weren’t so and I’m hoping to have a small impact in making a difference concerning this. There are churches that are working on helping those in such a situation. I know of some who are. But even if a church doesn’t step up to help, feminism isn’t the answer.

If, as many believe, feminism were truly just equal rights and protection and that was it, it would be one thing. But it’s not and it’s impossible for it to be. First, we’re already promised equal rights and protection under the law and we don’t need anything else trying to achieve that which is already in place. Second and more importantly, feminists hate the Word of God and His created order. They desire to destroy the family. Feminism is an attack on God’s Word and His created order and has led to chaos, sin, disaster, a dissolution of the family. Feminists hate God, men, children, and femininity. In such chaotic disorder and sin, a child of God can find no sound answers.

I think my abuser has repented. How can I tell for sure?
Sisters, we live in a fallen world that hates God, truth, the family, and all that is good or holy. Our abusers are people who despise God. Their hearts are evil and hardened. Most abusers never repent. God is a good God who sometimes cracks the hardest of hearts. Sometimes Saul is so changed so that he becomes Paul. Murderers, abusers, adulterers, and others, repent and believe the Gospel and live Christ-exalting, Christ-centered, lives. So, yes, it’s possible for abusers to repent. It’s just rare.

Almost every abuser will lie at some point and tell you he’s repented. How can you know if this time, he’s telling you the truth? Because he won’t push you to forgive him. If your abuser has truly repented before God of abusing you, he won’t tell you, “I’m sorry for hurting you, but….” That “but” tells you everything you need to know. One who has repented will accept the blame for what he’s done. There is no “but” in there anywhere. There is no demanding to be forgiven, no anger at you for not trusting him. He will repent and give you all the time you need to see the change. And, he won’t only repent to you, he will repent to others who have been impacted by his abuse. If he’s lied to others about you, he will admit he’s lied. Moreover, he will do everything he can to be the man God has called him to be. If your abuser has repented, you won’t have to depend on his words; his actions will prove it not just today but over the long-term. 2 Corinthians 7: 10, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

What can God do with my pain?
God makes all things new. He is a Redeemer, not only of us but of everything. What my abusers meant for evil, the Lord has meant for good (Genesis 50: 20). He is redeeming all I’ve gone through and He will do so for you, too, and using it for His glory and for the good of others. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

How Your Church Can Serve Survivors of Domestic Abuse

If there’s something you want to see addressed, please let me know either in the comments or by email (annagaynellwood@gmail.com).

Soli Deo Gloria!

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