Conversations tend to stop when this matter arises. People often fidget, or they change the subject. It’s really no wonder because we aren’t supposed to talk about it. None of us want to believe it happens because it’s not supposed to happen to Christians. It’s unthinkable—that Christians commit acts of abuse and violence. And, when our communities remain silent, the cycle of suffering continues. Might we help change that?
Most of us don’t realize that intimate partner abuse and violence happens to at least 25% of those sitting in our churches on Sunday mornings. It happens to one in three to four women. It impacts 65% of children. Approximately 11.5% of men experience it. One in five female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Contrary to common stereotypes, it happens to the rich, the poor, the middle class, the educated, the uneducated, the elderly, the middle-aged, and the young. It happens to people of all backgrounds, ethnicity, religions, and cultures. It happens just as frequently in Christian homes as in secular homes.
Numbers don’t tell all the stories. Secret pain. Secret shame. Secret unraveling of many dressed up on Sunday mornings. Some show up late, and leave early, because they would rather not talk about it with religious people who are prone to asking judgmental questions, and advising them to pray harder, submit better, bear their cross for the glory of Christ, have greater faith, and give better sex.
Also, disclosing the humiliating truth is risky—What will an abusive partner do after receiving wind of it—Worse name-calling? Worse shoving? Worse bruising? Or worse? There are other potential costs—Losing friends. Losing income. Losing the home. Losing the marriage. Losing the kids. Is it any wonder that victims have difficulty talking about it, much less asking for help?
It’s a terrible dilemma that many of our Christian communities do not “get it” until after something happens to a daughter, a sister, or another member of the body of Christ. Heaven knows that our communities can’t wait for people to be victimized before taking steps toward change.
My mentor and friend, Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger, commented often of this reality: “We have not loved each other as we ought.” She wrote of her concerns for an article in PRISM Magazine:
“Evangelicalism has been effective in proclaiming the redemptive and reconciling love of God to a world in desperate need. In the last half-century, it has gained in both numbers and influence throughout the globe. Believers can point to many accomplishments and ministries through which they have sought to bring glory to God and healing balm to those in need. There has been recognition that we must be doers of the word and not hearers only. In at least one area, however, evangelicals have lagged far behind others involved in humanitarian endeavors. We have failed to address the issue of domestic abuse in any significant way. In actuality, our leaders have been caught in a dilemma that leaves them with a high degree of discomfort even to acknowledge the problem.”
After years of working with Dr. Kroeger, through Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH), I’ve become convinced that empowering women to tell their stories is key to jump starting change. With this in mind, I invite the SheLoves community to help break the silence that leaves many victims feeling isolated, worthless, and hopeless. Might we provide a safe place for survivors and victims to speak, receive validation, and helpful support?
Might our collective voice call Christian communities, especially leaders, to respond with the Presence of Jesus?
Beginning in February 2014, we will address one form of abuse and violence per month. We will post stories illustrating the impact of different kinds of abuse (verbal, emotional, sexual, economic, etc.). We will also take a look at what God thinks about it (in light of Scripture).
If your life has been impacted by abuse and violence, would you be willing to tell us your story? Know that names, and other identifying details, will be changed for the sake of confidentiality, especially where safety is an issue. I look forward to the ways God uses your stories to help bring healing to Christian communities.
[The Stop the Silence Initiative ran from Jan.-Dec. 2014. We are no longer posting stories.]
Stop the Silence Stories
Stop the Silence, Start the Healing Introduction (January 2014)
Physical Abuse Story: Stuck: Waiting for the Light, By M. (March 2014)
Child Abuse Story (mother’s perspective): I Did Not Have the Courage Until Now, By K. (April 2014)
Child Abuse Story (daughters’ perspectives): Through Our Eyes: Growing Past Abuse, By A. & K. (May 2014)
June 2014: Date Rape Story: Cries of Shattered Adolescence, By K. (June 2014)
August 2014: Stalking Story: I Had To Get Away, By L. (August 2014)
October 2014: Economic Abuse Story: What I Want You to Know, By R. (Oct. 2014)
December 2014: Abuse of A Man by A Woman Story: Reach Out, Get Help, Be Safe, Interview by Amy R. Buckley (Dec. 2014)
- Domestic Violence // Huffington Post
- Domestic Violence Affects 1 In 3 Women // Medical News Today
- Violence Against Women // World Health Organization
- Scope of the Problem // National Child Traumatic Stress Network
 Kroeger and Nason-Clark, “No Place For Abuse,” 2001, 19.
 World Health Organization, “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, “ (Joint Publication WHO and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the South African Medical Research Council)http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/en/index.html (accessed January 6, 2014).
 Nason-Clark and Fisher-Townsend and Fahlberg, “Strengthening Families and Ending Abuse, Churches and Their Leaders Look to the Future, 2013, 21.
 CDC Adverse Health Conditions, 2005.
 Silverman et al., “Dating Violence,” 2004.
 Wilson, When Violence Begins at Home, 179.
 Catherine Clark Kroeger, “The Abused Bride of Christ,” PRISM Magazine, May/June 2004.
Copyright © 2014, Amy R. Buckley.