One in three women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, and this is true even in the church.
Think about that for a minute and let it sink in.
As much as we want to believe that domestic abuse only exists out in the world, in those “other” neighborhoods “but not mine”, the truth is domestic violence impacts families from every socioeconomic, geographical, educational, racial, ethnic, and religious community in the world.
Even more disturbing is to realize that there are victims in our churches crying silently for understanding and help. I was one of those women, possibly sitting near you every Sunday for nineteen years. There are also men who are abusive sitting near you who are conflicted and troubled by their own behavior, fearful someone will find out how they really treat their family behind closed doors. And it does impact the entire family – children included.
I was raised in a Christian home and met my husband at a small Christian university. After dating for a year and a half, we were married in my home church – the same church where my grandfather had been the senior pastor, at the same altar where he had married my parents. Having a Christian heritage does not make one immune to the possibility of becoming a victim of domestic violence. If it could happen to me (and it did), it can happen to anyone. After many years of silent suffering, I finally divulged the secret to church leadership, but they were ill-prepared to address the complicated nature of the deeper issues.
Over the past several decades, progress has been made in recognizing and addressing the problem of domestic abuse. Some denominations have made strides in developing ministries to help those impacted. But the statistics tell us the problem of abuse in our current society is only getting worse instead of better. Over eight million women in the U.S. will be assaulted by their husband or boyfriend this year, and at least 1,600 women will be murdered as a result of domestic violence. 87% of children in the home witness the abuse, and about 70% of men who batter also abuse the children.
This is obviously not God’s plan for the family. His heart is to care for widows and orphans and the victims of violence. He offers those who are abusive the opportunity to confess, repent and receive forgiveness. His plan is for the children to be set free from the generational cycle of violence. His desire has always been to provide hope and healing through the church. If we are to be effective in reaching the lost in our communities and ministering to the broken-hearted among us, we have to understand and address the needs of families impacted by domestic abuse. They are around us in our neighborhoods, sitting near us in our churches, and …… they are us. The body of Christ, His Bride, is crying out for freedom from abuse and Jesus makes it possible. Join the cause and expect miracles.
Statistics taken from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, www.ncadv.org
If you need immediate help or advice, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
For more information and additional resources, visit www.jodycowdin.com, www.facebook.com/jodycowdin, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a more in-depth discussion of domestic violence from a Christian viewpoint, see Overcoming Domestic Abuse: Information and Inspiration to Rise Above, 2016, by Jody Cowdin, Xulon Press.