DV – Part III – Religious Abuse

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Religious abuse is a hot topic right now.
There are situations in homes where the couple each follow their own religious beliefs and they may differ from that of their partner. The victim may be subject to ridicule and belittling by the abuser who doesn’t share the same beliefs. The abuser may even prevent the victim from attending the house of worship that the victim chooses, but instead must accompany the abuser to his house of worship. The abuser may force the victim to do, say or participate in things that goes against the way they believe or the way they were taught.
But where it gets sticky is when the abuser and the victim both attend the same church. I have heard story after story where a woman (yes, in this instance, I’m going to put the gender in here) has gone to her pastor or leadership in the church and asked for guidance because her husband was abusive. But instead of believing the wife and confronting the husband, the leadership of the church tells the woman she needs to pray more, be more submissive, try harder, be a helpmate to her husband. And so, the victim gets victimized even further.
I know of one woman who went to church with not one, but two, black eyes and the pastor asked her to stay home until they healed. She pointed out that her husband had given her both of the black eyes and wondered why nothing was being said to him. The pastor just repeated that she shouldn’t return to church until she healed, saying her being there was bringing a reproach on the church.
Let me put this out there. When a victim comes forward because she is being abused, this is not the first time the abuse has happened. There has been a pattern of abuse that could have gone on for years and years. It means that the victim has gotten to a place where she can’t take it anymore and has turned to someone or someplace for help. If that place is her church, the place of safety, of acceptance, of love, the least the leadership can do is believe her. Don’t use scripture to “put her in her place”, don’t tell her to pray harder, because I am sure there is not another person in the congregation who has prayed harder than an abused wife, and don’t under any circumstances, suggest couples counseling.
It’s sad when the subject of the post is religious abuse and the discussion ends up pointing the finger not only at the abuser, but at those who should be championing for the abused and instead are protecting the abuser. The church needs to do a better job of protecting the abused and not be adding to their feeling of helplessness.

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