The Ugly Sin of Domestic Violence
Sandra Dickerson Murphy never told her church family about her abusive home life. But week after week the 18 year old mother of two sat in the pew with black eyes and bruises. “No one would ask me about the bruises. So I kept quiet and obeyed my husband, as a good Christian wife is supposed to do.” Today her scars are impossible to ignore. As the hands and feet of God, it is our responsibility to address this issue within our churches and in the society around us. According to Nancy Nason-Clark, a sociology professor who has spent 15 years studying domestic violence within Christian families, “Most pastors who have not been sought out by a domestic abuse victim have never spoken against it from the pulpit or in premarital counselling. They have never made it clear that they are approachable and willing to help in this area.”
Why is this? Generally it’s because ministers and church members don’t know how to deal with domestic violence and the victims in their congregation. One has to hope that the apathy is not because they don’t want to help. The problem is, God calls us each into account for our actions and He will, on Judgement day, ask us why we didn’t personally help the helpless and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is our prayer that this article will challenge and motivate you to help these victims with practical information.
I had been beaten up many times. I had broken bones, blue eyes, split lips, grazed flesh, many visits to the hospital, the police station and the lawyer’s office, suicide attempts, treatment for depression, incarceration in clinics and jail, and in the process I had obtained more prescription medication to calm my ravaged nerves than could be construed as ethical – and still I would go back to my abuser “to try and work things out.” I had been entrapped in the cycle of domestic violence for nearly three decades. When I realise how close I came to death on several occasions, it is clear to me that denial would have been the actual killer.
It is my painful experience that very few people (even doctors, lawyers and psychologists) understand the true nature of this beast. The power play, the adrenalin rush, the surge of self-pity - in fact, the constant drama of that kind of life is highly intoxicating. It is like taking a roller coaster ride every single day. Yes, it is addictive. And coming out of this addiction is every bit as challenging as any other. When I compare the photos of myself as a young professional model, with the degrading sight of myself on the photos that show the violence, I must question where the seething rage came from - was it my perpetrators’ rage or my own?
I have three daughters who had to witness my utter powerlessness and shame. In the end this man managed to break my heart completely and as I am left to pick up the pieces and rebuild my life, I am constructing the innermost chamber of my heart just for God - leaving no place for false gods and idols this time round. It has taken real guts to begin to face the truth. Change is difficult…. even hell can be a comfort zone! The temptation to go backwards and trade my personal values and talents for the illusion of safety is always present. All in all it is comforting to know for certain that the Lord who holds galaxies together can easily take care of any problem, no matter how impossible it seems to be.
Are you in an abusive relationship?
Abuse is no excuse. If you are in an abusive relationship, or know someone else who is being abused, please read this and get help today. Abuse is NOT God’s Will for you! Please note that abuse is not only physical - it is emotional, intellectual, verbal, financial and spiritual.
Signs of a potentially abusive relationship are evident when someone:
1. Keeps track of what you are doing all the time, and with whom
2. Is jealous and possessive.
3. Accuses you of being unfaithful.
4. Brings up past relationships, as though you shouldn’t have had any
5. Shows controlling behaviour. Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family, going to work or college.
6. Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
7. Is verbally abusive.
8. Controls all the money, including the money you spend.
9. Checks your bank statements or bank accounts.
10. Humiliates you in front of others.
11. Treats you differently when others are around.
12. Destroys your property
13. Threatens to harm you in any way; threatens your children or pets.
14. Uses or threatens to use a weapon against you.
15. Sexually abuses you
16. Blames you for their violent outbursts.
Help centres: Christian places:
Mercy Haven for Abused Women with Children
011 892 2714
Christian Praise Centre Families with Children
011 744 4350
Beit Shalom Christian House for Abused Women
078 463 2857, 011 892 1079
L’a Bris di Dieu Safehouse Stellenbosch
021 808 8005, firstname.lastname@example.org
Other useful information:
Stop Woman Abuse National Hotline 0800 150 150
South African Police Service 10111
Women’s Legal Centre 011 892 2714
Religion & Violence e-learning (for ministers)
What does the Bible say about abuse?
Quite often, if we as victims approach and confide in an elder, priest, or member of our church, hoping for some support and encouragement, we can leave feeling even guiltier and more trapped than we did formerly. We may be told that the abuse is due to our own lack of submissiveness, or our own sinfulness, or that we would not suffer if our faith was greater, or that we will be rewarded in the next life for the suffering we experience in this one. At times ministers have advised women that it would be better for them to die at the hands of their abusive husband than to seek a separation and protection for their children!
- Ps 11:5 “The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.He hates those who love violence.”
- Zeph1:9 “In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”
- In a similar way, ‘wrath’ or anger is condemned as being sinful, as is sexual abuse:
- Jas 1:19, 20 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”
- Eph 5:3-5 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality (this includes sexual abuse), or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s Holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”
- Prov 10:11 “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”
- Matt 5:21, 22 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment’. But I say, ‘If you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.’”
- Eph 4:29 “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.”
- Eph 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”
The Lord sympathises and offers comfort to those who are afflicted.
The Lord does hear our prayers, He does care when we cry. He is there to comfort, guide us and heal us. Ps 18:48 “He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: Thou hast delivered me from the violent man.”
2 Sam 22:28 “You save a troubled people. But Your eyes are on the proud whom You put to shame.”
Ps 22:24 “For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from him; but when he cried unto Him, He heard.”
Ps 72:14 “He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in His sight.”
Ps 9:9 “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.”
Ps 103:6 “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.”
The Church has a responsibility to hold abusers accountable and to help victims.
- Gal 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
- Heb 13:3 “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
- Isa 1:17 “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
- Prov 31:9 “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
- Isa 35:3,4 “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; He will come and save you.’”
What can you do to help?
If you are being abused, you must go for counselling and get out of the situation. Your church is the first port of call, but a safe home is equally important. At JOY! we strongly recommend you to try and find a Christian organisation as you cannot overcome the wounds of abuse without Jesus.
If you or your church want to begin a Christian ministry/safe home for abused women, we suggest you use existing successful programmes developed by the Christian Women’s Coalition. Janet Jarrell, a formerly abused woman saved and restored by the power of God, runs these programmes and is available to train your team in dealing with domestic abuse God’s way. Her practical, effective and comprehensive programme is a MUST for every church wanting to start this ministry. She is willing to travel countrywide.
078 463 2857
When starting any domestic abuse safe house, it is CRITICAL that you comply with certain legal criteria. This is to protect yourself and the women you are taking care of. For more information and a vital manual called ‘The A-Z’s of starting a safe house’, please contact
021 797 4190