Church, We’ve Got to Handle Emotional Abuse Better - Elisabeth Klein
I’ve mentioned before that I have the privilege of moderating two private Facebook groups: one for women currently living in difficult Christian marriages and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced.  We are communities of support for each other in a world that doesn’t quite know what to do with us, I’m finding.  Case in point: I just led a half-hour chat with some of the women in my divorced group and I tossed out the question, “What’s one thing you wish someone had told you before you headed into the divorce process (legal or emotional or spiritual or whatever)?”One gal quickly responded with this, “I wish someone had told me not to rely on my church for emotional/spiritual support. My pastor actually asked me if he could help me find another church.”In another recent conversation, a woman described a conversation she had with a church leader whom she had called for help.  After describing a violent incident with her husband and the horrible words he used on her, the church leader asked, “Is there any truth to those words?”

Though statements like these still make my heart hurt and make me sick to my stomach, they no longer stun me, unfortunately, because this is what I’m used to hearing.  This seems to be the norm.  Now, before you get all upset with me and accuse me of Church-bashing, let me state for the record for the gazillionth time: I love the Church, I love the Church, I love the Church.  I love my old church and I love my new church.But I can’t turn a deaf ear to what I hear on a fairly regular basis from women who are divorcing.  In fact, of all of the women I have talked to face-to-face in the past year or two, when this subject comes up, I am one of the only ones who can give a mostly positive report about my church’s role in my separation/divorce.

I don’t know how else I can say this other than it should not be like this.  For the most part, I do not believe women make up abuse (and when I say abuse, I mean physical, sexual, emotional, spiritual mistreatment and domination or coercion, etc.). In fact, I believe that most abused women have minimized their abuse for a long time.  If a woman has gotten to the point of coming to a church leader for help, you must trust me on this: she is at her wit’s end and she is desperate.  How you respond to her may send her underground with her pain for another few years, or even indefinitely.

I am not an expert in this field.  But I have a degree in Psychology, I continue to read as much as I can on the subject, I am an authority of my own experience, and I am in contact with more and more women who have lived through these kinds of excruciating circumstances.  I have nothing personal to gain by asking the Church to stand up for the abused woman, by asking the Church to rethink their stances and rethink their responses.So, if you are a church leader, I implore you to take some time to pray and read through one of these resources in an effort to better support the women in your congregation.  Because, trust me, it’s happening in more Christian homes than you know or even want to believe, and the Bride of Christ is too precious and important to let this continue on as is.

No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger

Violence Against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook by Carol J. Adams & Marie Fortune
The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church’s Response by Pamela Cooper White