Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

When the Abuse Victim Becomes the Abuser's Ally

Acts 5:1-2 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, (2) and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

It is not my intent to teach that Sapphira was married to an abuser. I simply cite this scripture as an illustration of a wife taking the side of her husband in an evil matter. Both were held accountable.
Nor am I teaching here that a victim of domestic abuse who does not actively expose her abuser is going to be counted guilty by the Lord. We all know, I trust, that “just leaving” an abuser is no easy matter and sometimes, for a time, it is impossible.
But I do want to discuss here a subject that I have come across personally numerous times, namely, cases in which the wife of a domestic abuser actively defends the abuser and even participates in his abuse of their children and of other people. All of the cases I have dealt with have been in the local church and in which the abuser and spouse claimed to be Christians.

In what way did these wives (the cases I have dealt with were those in which the wife was the abuse victim) participate in their abuser’s evil? Remember, I am not talking about cases where the wife, out of fear or out of being confused as to what is really happening to her, remains silent. No, I am addressing cases in which the abuse victim actually and actively participates in the abuser’s evil doings. 
For example:

Linda is married to John. They have a large number of children. Both John and Linda not only profess to be Christians, they are very active in the local church. They “disciple” others. They wear an aura of eminent godliness. They are rigid in their religious practices – family devotions, keeping the sabbath, memorizing and quoting the Bible, dressing according to their definition of modesty, home-schooling, and so on.  John boasts that he has instructed Linda, quote, “you must obey me.”

Linda however, once you have been around her long enough, turns out to be a very angry person. I say, “once you have been around her” rather than “once you get to know her” because, well, you will never really get to know her. She will not allow it. Linda targets, reviles, and verbally abuses the same people John does. If anyone calls John on his reviling tongue by which he assaults others, Linda fires up immediately to John’s defense. “He is a fine husband! Don’t you dare say that about him!” Linda will then behave angrily toward that person…forever.

Linda actively, along with John, keeps many secrets secret. What really goes on in their home behind closed doors? No one knows. No one is permitted to know. But John’s patriarchy is on steroids, and in such a household you can be assured that there is abuse going on.

That is just one of several cases like this I have come across over the years. An abuse victim becoming an abusive ally herself. These kind, sadly, are beyond help. I don’t presume to know completely what makes them tick, but in some way they have made the decision that the benefits of “standing by their man” outweigh the costs of exposing his abuse and leaving him. These benefits can be:

  • Economic (in one case the abuser was very wealthy)
  • Spiritual (the victims has grown to enjoy being regarded as the most holy of holy saints by others)
  • Remaining on “good terms” with the Lord (so skewed is her thinking about how the Lord views her and what he demands of her)

I do not understand these cases thoroughly. But I do know that they exist and that an abuse victim who has resolved to be a “helper” to her abuser will become one of the angriest and harshest people you ever get sideways of.
Don’t YOU become one.

Pro 22:24-25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, (25) lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.


Dealing With The Abuser – He is a Trespasser – sermon by Ps Jeff Crippen


**A Real Story of How Abusers Deceive Us+9


  1. Joy

    I witnessed a lovely Christian woman desperate to “follow God’s will,” lie to an investigator to support her abusive husband. She helped him cover his abusive behavior towards her and myself.
    I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around her ability to do this because, she is a kind and gentle person.
    I wondered if she was threatened by him.
    If she was just so desperate to stay married, that she convinced herself it was all true.
    I will never know her motivation to participate in the evil schemes of her husband, when it seemed so out of character.
    Thank you for sharing this article, I feel less alone in my experience.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I have been on the receiving end of the same kind of scenario. Whatever her motive, her mind is really messed up at best, and perhaps she isn’t at all the nice Christian woman she appears to be?

  2. anonymous

    I think the abuser’s evil has to be taken into account. Kind of like, he who has the gun, makes the rules. Some abused women try to control others in order to appease the terrorist abuser because they alone are faced with appeasing him and have been led to believe that if they act a certain way, jump through enough hurdles, etc. then the abuser will stop abusing and nobody else will be hurt.
    Some women have had their families threatened. And so, out of love for their family members, they sacrifice themselves and cover the abuse because the target’s job is always to make the abuser look good, keep the secret, and again, he who has the loaded gun, makes the rules.
    And yes, bad teaching, as there are numerous “Christian living” ‘self-help books’ out there that teach women to be submissive and subjected to their husbands as though he was Almighty God, Himself. Head of the household teachings. “Obey him” teachings.
    People don’t know better. Maya Angelou said, :”when you know better, you do better.” But that always assumes you don’t have a terrorist with a loaded gun on your hands. A few trips to near-death at the batterer’s hands and other tactics produced a mind-controlled, brainwashed, entirely controlled, enslaved, terrorized, subjugated victim-target.
    I wonder how many moms abused their kids in order to produce the “seen, not heard” variety of children the batterer demands. It goes back to the murderous batterer.

  3. Z

    This post exactly describes what happened to me (and siblings) by both of my abusive parents. Father committed horribly violent & frequent physical, verbal & emotional Domestic Abuse on mother for as far back as my memory goes. He also physically, verbally & emotionally abused all of us children brutally & frequently too, as mother stood by and did absolutely nothing to help us. Ever.
    And after the frequent DV abuses on mother by father, he would storm out of the house to either cheat on her or go to a bar, etc..and mother would then take out her rage about her abuse immediately on us children by beating us to a pulp. We were already terrorized by witnessing the DV, fearing for our lives. No matter to our mother. She added to our terrors and traumas by being our second brutally physically violent abuser. Sometimes she beat us when she had not just been beaten herself. An abuser in her own right.
    My best guess is that she, like my father, also was an abuser at heart anyway and would have beaten us regardless of her own DV. She cared more about obsessively making sure father was “coming home to her” (he’d keep her guessing with mind games all abusers play) than about the very lives of her children. She elevated him to “kingship” status always and made sure we children knew where we stood. There was “no contest” when it came down to him vs us every single day>he’d come out on top every time. I don’t know why they had children. They both hated us. Professing “christians” then and still now!
    She even enabled & covered up vile sexual improprieties he engaged in with us children. She engaged in them too. Much “Covert Incest” went on too, with their involving us children in their perverted sexual life. Unwanted & resisted by me for sure. Didn’t matter. We were powerless. It was a clearly sick household on all levels that I got out of as soon as I could. But I’m still dealing with the deep damages caused to me by them.
    I used to be confused for a time about whether she was an abuse victim or a perpetrator. If she was “responsible” for her actions. I thought maybe “Battered Wife Syndrome”? Now I know she absolutely is 100% responsible and will answer to God for each one of them, just as my father will. She’ll stand alone before God without my father, her idol, standing with her.
    Thanks Pastor Crippen for addressing a topic that is even more rarely addressed within churches than DV and child abuse. It’s complex and ugly and messy. No one likes to talk about these things that real victims have gone through. It’s hard for people to believe such evil exists in mothers. Thanks for believing.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You’re welcome.

    • Joy

      Z, I can relate to what you shared. Your ability to write about your “upbringing” so objectively and eloquently is a gift. Thank you for sharing; we were living parallel lives, probably hundreds of miles apart….kindred spirits in overcoming! Press on friend, your story helps to set the captives free. Sincere admiration, Joy

      • Z

        Thank you for your kind words, kindred spirit Joy. I’m so sorry you went through anything similar to my stories. Though it’s a struggle for me every single day to try to overcome the damage from so much abuse-with my Savior’s 24/7 help-I hope that my voicing the ugly truths helps others do the same. My “objectivity” style probably comes out of habit. My survival/coping depended on years of numbing my emotions. Believe me, if I let myself feel the full emotional weight of my life so far, without a bit of dissociation, I’d be crushed to pieces.
        We’ve all been silenced as abuse victims. Speaking the TRUTH reduces the abuse oppression’s power over us. It must be let out in a safe place like this, not suppressed. Hopefully it empowers others to speak their truth and get onto their road to FREEDOM.
        “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”
        Thank You Jesus, for my freedom in YOU. I WILL BE FREE!
        I will pray for you, Joy. I ask for you and others to pray for me. I need them. Thank you and God bless you.

  4. Nyssa The Hobbit

    It makes me feel less alone as well. I’ve experienced this, an abuse victim helping his wife abuse others. I posted about this on my blog.

  5. Jeff Crippen

    Oh man! Yes, Debi Pearl. Bad, bad news.

  6. Franny Flag

    I experienced this as a supporter of a DV victim. After telling me her experiences at the hands of her horrible husband —affairs, financial abuse, disregard for her feelings, poor health that he caused, how he recorded her phone calls and showing me a photo of bruises from him she later bragged to me about her husband being her hero. When I tried to show her more support she ghosted me. I haven’t heard from her since.
    I’m not sure if she’s scared, confused, if her husband forbade her to communicate with me, or if she is her husbands ally??
    It’s very troubling and confusing.

    • Jeff Crippen

      In most of the cases that I have personally experienced in which the abused wife turns and supports her abuser as “hero,” their motive was to keep the “benefits” of staying married to the abuser. Money, prestige, “Christian” reputation. I realize this is not always the motive but in the cases I have dealt with this is how it went down.

  7. BreatheAgain

    As a young adult I was part of a so called house church for a few years, held at the home of a woman who had a large number of children. The woman leading it was extremely controlling and narcissistic. Some of her older kids became just like her. Her first husband left her and the 2nd husband was very kind and humble. Unfortunately he was often the target of ‘correction’ since he was a new christian. This was of course in front of her kids. (several of them are still under her thumb to this day, living at home though they are now in their 40’s) Whenever he pushed back he paid for it. Many years later I saw this family again. And the husband had changed so much. He is now just as judgemental and unkind as his wife. It made me sad and was also very instructive.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you BreatheAgain. I am so glad you weren’t sucked in by her. I have known her kind as well. And the brainwashed adult kids. Its an ugly scene.

      • Breathe Again

        It took me a long time to get free of the damage done to me there, even the was only part of their group for 2 years.

        • Jeff Crippen

          Those kind of people are the false teachers that Paul warns against in Galatians and many other parts of his letters. They teach a false gospel that enslaves and God pronounces them anathema – under His curse.

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