Mistakes Pastors Make about Domestic Abuse
Lynette J. Hoy is a licensed, clinical professional counselor. For nine years she was the Director of LifeCARE Ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois. As a domestic abuse counselor, Lynette Hoy has counseled many involved with domestic abuse situations. In our recent interview with her, we asked her to list some of the mistakes church leaders make in regard to domestic abuse. Here are the biggest mistakes she mentioned in her own words:
1. Thinking that no one is being victimized in the congregation. Statistics prove that 1 out of 4 women have suffered from domestic violence. It is likely, therefore, that 25% of women in our churches have or are dealing with abuse by a partner.
2. Not believing the woman who reveals abuse and control issues in her marriage or intimate relationship. Women victims need to be validated and referred to a domestic violence agency for confidential counseling.
3. Breaking confidentiality and putting the woman at risk for harm. This is a big issue. Any woman dealing with physical or sexual abuse is in real danger. Safety must be the priority.
4. Confronting an abusive husband without regard for the safety of the wife. This mistake relates to number 3. One never knows how dangerous a situation might be in reality or how it could escalate. Confrontation may come later, but only when the victim is not in danger.
5. Believing that your church doesn’t need to be educated about domestic violence or that education will actually cause more harm. There is evidence that domestic abuse education in churches actually helps women come forward and get help. In addition, education motivates men (abusers or potential abusers) to identify issues of anger and control. Keeping domestic abuse “swept under the rug” only enables the problem.
6. Neglecting to help a victim of abuse. Fear or neglect may cause a church leader or pastor to avoid intervening and helping the victim. God has called us to help those who are oppressed, to reach out to the weak and timid following Christ’s example.
7. Teaching a wrong emphasis of headship and submission. Many battered women have been encouraged to silently apply “the submissive wife” principle of 1 Peter 3. So many well-meaning pastors and counselors have sent wives back into an abusive home after quoting the apostle Peter’s words: in
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Pet. 3:1-6).
Pastors and leaders need to emphasize that submission does not mean acceptance of disrespect and abuse in a marriage relationship.
8. Scolding a woman for returning to an abusive relationship. Women/victims tend to return to abusive relationships or repeat these relationships. It’s important to recognize how powerless these women feel. Fear keeps them going back and fear tells them to leave. Continue to be involved with them. Pray for these victims that their eyes would be opened and they will have the courage to leave for good when the situation doesn’t change and continues to be dangerous.
To contact Lynette or to learn more about her ministry, see:
Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC
CounselCare Connection, P.C.
Anger Management Institute
2000 Spring Road, Suite 603
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Copyright © 2003 by the author