As most of our readers probably know, I always tell abuse victims these two things:
- Abusers never change, and
- A marriage to an abuser does not need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.
I advise people to base their decisions about whether to leave, whether to stay, and so on upon these two fundamental assumptions. If they do, they will make wise decisions and avoid being further deceived by the abuser and his array of allies.
Now, I have caught flack for making these absolute statements. You see, people (especially professing Christians) want to believe that everyone is redeemable. That God is the God of the impossible. That we must never give up hope on anyone. This is the stuff that makes the tear-jerker feel good movies a hit, you know. The serial killer is forgiven by his victims’ families, they tell him about Christ, and he gets saved and marvelously transformed. This is the thing, you see. This is the stuff that sells.
But it is not reality. And it is not in agreement with the Word of God.
One of the claims I have seen over the years is that abuser intervention therapy programs can be devised that are capable of “curing” the abuser. People eat this stuff up. This is one of my biggest complaints about Chris Moles, a fellow who seems to be enjoying great success in the “happening” Christian scene selling his abuser fix-it programs. His name is cropping up everywhere. “Just call Chris. He can fix it.” No. No he can’t.
Here is a quote that we came across on facebook recently from a person who worked in batterer intervention programs. Here is true insight into the mind and motives of the abuser. He cannot be “fixed,” because he does not want to be “fixed.” He does what he does because he loves it. He is not some Darth Vader in whom we must find some island of goodness and thereby redeem him. Listen to this:
Especially wanted to opine when someone mentioned that abusers can go up to 18 months without showing their true colors.
I used to supervise all the DV programs at one of my former agencies, and one of those programs was a batterers’ intervention program. One night after the group the facilitator (who was my boss, temporarily filling in) called me and said he thought I might be interested in the night’s topic.
He started off by asking the group if, when they got together with a new partner, they started abusing her right away or if they waited a while. The vote was unanimous:
‘Oh no, if you start being abusive right away, she’ll leave you! You have to get a hook in first, cut off her avenues of escape, get her locked down tight enough that she can’t get away first, before you can start.’
So then he (the facilitator) asked them what was the optimum amount of time to wait. That is when the discussion ensured…everyone had a different opinion. So he gave them a task – to come to a unanimous consensus: What is the optimum amount of time to wait after starting to date a new partner before you can start abusing them?
And, coldly, calculatingly, they spent the rest of the session debating the issue, weighing the pros and cons, to come up with their final answer: “If you really want to do it right,” “If you really want to lock her down so she can’t get away,” – One to Two years.
Took my breath away. People say abusers “can’t control themselves,” they are “out of control.” They are drunk and “don’t know what they’re doing.” Bullshit. They know EXACTLY what they are doing, to the point where those guys could methodically weigh the pros and cons and come up with a calculated strategy that carefully closed off all avenues of escape to their partners BEFORE they started their behavior…because they KNOW that their partners would leave them unless the stakes were too high first.
Changed forever how I think of abusers…
These intervention programs very often include “accountability.” That is, they claim that by introducing a high degree of accountability into the abuser’s life and surroundings, his abuse can be curtailed. “Joe, did you abuse your wife today? Tell me the truth now.” And so if Joe knows, the claim goes, that he is going to have to give regular account of his behavior, he will stop abusing. Yeah. Right.
Let me put this question to everyone. Why in the world would anyone want to remain married to a person who does not abuse them only because they know they are going to get into trouble if they do? Not because they love you. Not because they hate evil and love God’s truth. No. The only reason their abuse is lessened is because they are going to look bad or pay consequences if they continue abusing. And yet THIS is the very picture of “marriage” that these intervention program boasters are selling people. “There you go! Told you! Success! Another week without him doing what he really would like to do to you.”
Many men’s ministries in local churches operate in exactly the same way. Accountability groups are set up. “Did you lust this week? Did you look at porn? Did you lead your family in devotions? Did you read your Bible everyday?” And on and on. The Bible has a name for this. It is called the Law.
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
Gal 3:11-12 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (12) But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
Let me end then with this statement that I absolutely believe is true.
Domestic abuser intervention programs (and most all “counseling” programs in churches) not only fail to genuinely “fix” abusers, they in fact fuel the abuser’s evil by pouring the gasoline of the Law on his sinful, wicked heart. They enable the wicked man to sweep his house clean, only making his heart and soul a more comfortable place for the devil and his minions to live. So that, his last condition is worse than his first.
Powerful words…with a lot of truth…
Thank you Pastor Crippen for your stand against this evil.
I was a member of a dynamic church where I still struggle to reconcile their powerful preaching with their refusal to stand against the evil of abuse in my home because it’s about “your marriage not the church” said with derisory laugh. The support for me and my child is non existent, the abuse is emotional, psychological and spritual so no bruises, adultery or obvious sign to an outsider. I’ve made so many excuses to try to understand the churches and the abusers point of view, blaming myself for years BUT God led me to your book and that together with other online sources of help have now given me a way to start to heal. There’s no turning back now even though it’s the most painful time. Reading these words and asking God for help give me a sense of being normal as with abuse you can doubt everything about your identity and worth. This is the core of the evil; stripping a human being of their dignity and purpose. It is criminal that churches are so blind.
So thank you so much for all you do to shed the light of Jesus on this insidious darkness of domestic abuse.
Ds- Thank you for sharing with us. It is very encouraging to know you have found help and that we could be a part of that help. Your insights into the nature of abusers and abuse is real wisdom. When speaking of the blindness of churches to abuse, I like the add the adjective “willful.” It is a willful blindness. They do not see because they do not want to see. That makes them culpable. Guilty. And in many cases I think we are going to find out one day that they weren’t churches, weren’t real Christians, weren’t true pastors at all.
Hi Jeff – I’m very interested in this topic. I believe Chris Moles’ book is intended not as an intervention, but as a help for pastors to understand the mind of an abusive man. He works with guilty batterers and is bringing his knowledge into the church arena. Chris makes it very clear that outward behaviors are not the goal – but a heart change. I think you agree with him on that. His book and awareness raising are helping to bring about some movement on the DV topic in churches. We need ALL voices to be heard and respected. Hoping you and Chris can find some good common ground and work TOGETHER to move that needle for the oppressed within the Church. Grateful for you BOTH!!
Thanks Diana. I appreciate your input, but it’s not going to happen. All down through the years I have been in this ministry I have people try to convince me that I need to realize that I am actually on the same page as all these other folks and that if I would just work together with them we would accomplish much more. I don’t agree. As you say, Moles “works with guilty batterers.” His work with them is not just about understanding them. He devises programs to fix them. And he may talk about heart change, but it is not the heart change of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an outward whitewashing of a tomb. It is the use of the law and a claim that by laws and rules we can transform the wicked. That is why these approaches find such wide popularity. People crave to hear that God’s grace means that there is no one, absolutely no one – beyond the saving grace of God. That is false. The Bible is plain on this. Esau is an example. And Pharaoh. And anyone who (Hebrews 6) has tasted the goodness of the Lord but who then tramples underfoot the cross of Christ. These abusers we are addressing here are this kind of person. We are to cast them out (1 Cor 5) from among us, not devise programs to save them. So no, I do not agree that I have any common ground with Moles.
Diana, all you have to do is ask yourself if you became repentant and converted to Christ in your life because someone schooled you to be repentant, or because it was the kindness of God in your life, and then you will have the right answer about all this nonsense of trying to counsel abusers into repentance and change. Are not most of them seated beside their wives at Church on Sunday? Do they not hear the same teachings as everyone else? Why yes, yes they do! And the reason they don’t see their sin or their abuse and bad behavior, is because God has not drawn them nor opened their eyes to it. Find me a handful of abusers who became Christians because of a man teaching them how to be one and I will show you a handful of false converts. It is God who draws and saves and gives repentance, not man. We must be biblical on these matters and not endanger others’ lives with such foolish and false teachings.
Thank you IamMy – wisdom here. Wisdom in your words, I mean.
I have a question….for those who move in the sexual addiction arena, the knowledge that the addiction & abuse go hand in hand is a given. If they are able to work a good recovery program, and find not only sobriety, but recovery, or a change of heart, does that also change the abusive behaviours/patterns? My husband is a sex addict, and when he’s in the guilt/shame part of the cycle, he is very emotionally abusive….gaslighting, blame shifting, deflecting, etc. It’s a nightmare. I haven’t found any pastoral support that doesn’t require that I forgive, forget, love, support & pray for him. I don’t know if it will ever get better.
Tiffany – excellent question. Abusers never change. They will not have a genuine heart change (aka being born again in Christ) by means of any program. That is what the Bible calls trying to be saved by works of the Law and it won’t work.
What you are going to continue to experience is that same abusive cycle over and over and over.
In my opinion those programs only prolong the suffering of the abusers victim.
They also set the hook, and provide false hope for the victims that the abuser is simply needing education, support, and accountability (or whatever other nonsense the BIPs claim to provide).
Additionally, the BIPs compete with DV shelters and DV agencies for funding dollars, which means, that those programs take away money that would otherwise be used to keep battered women’s shelters operating.
And the BIPs work as get-out-of-jail freebie cards for abusers who would otherwise be sentenced to jail. And these BIPs’ classes become additional training grounds as to how to better abuse and control the targeted wife, without being arrested. Batterers already have plenty of allies and the last thing they need is a new crew of guys who also beat their wives to drink coffee with and exchange stories.
1-2 years is about right. Some wait until a woman is pregnant, even if that means waiting additional years. It’s about setting the hook really, really deep. Engineering total helplessness, total control, no escape.
And thanks for being a hard-liner here, as I now detest BIPs and I no longer buy into the lie that abusers can be reformed. No way. I don’t care about the 1 in 10,000 abusers who might have changed. Nope. I’ll get it wrong and misjudge, oh well. Better that I correctly judge the 9,999 ones I do get right. Women’s lives are at stake. It’s too important to care about the potential 1 in 10,000 that might reform (but I don’t even believe in that, just saying it for argument’s sake).
BIPs make a joke out of domestic violence and the reality that abuse is murder.
Yeah…I got that accountability partner advice from a counselor, too. If it was alcohol addiction or something maybe that it could work…I don’t know. But with an abusive marriage there is just no way. Why would the abuser allow him/herself to be accountable to the very person over whom he/she loves to hold power?
Accountability only works to the extent someone WANTS to be accountable. We cannot MAKE someone be trustworthy. They have to CHOOSE to want to change.
I can attest to what I’ve seen as the laughable “value” of Batterer Intervention Programs.
I have first-hand knowledge of a situation where the regularly assigned LEADER of several court-mandated diversion Batter Intervention Classes (to avoid jail) is my sibling. A sibling who was as brutally and regularly abused as a child by our parents as I was. Also she witnessed the violent DV between parents that I did as well as the brutal beating of our siblings. She reacted by being so incredibly enmeshed and codependent on her abusers as a child and is STILL completely enmeshed and severely codependent on her abuser parents. She has no identity or life apart from “pleasing her abusers” and being their BIGGEST enabler/cheerleader/coverup liar/idolator.
This very damaged person is LEADING abusers’ in classes! And I’ve heard her talk about her abuser “clients” (violating privacy laws to puff herself up) in a way where it’s clear she sides with the ABUSERS. She talks about their victims derogatorily as the villains who “provoke” and “set up” these “poor men” and falsely accuse them.
This sibling needs deep, deep mental help.
I got secular counseling to deal with my scars from my abuses as soon as I became an adult. Before that, I always innately resisted contact with my abusers to the extent I could as a child living in that bondage. In counseling and through reading about abuse and it’s effects on victims and by my faith in Jesus as my Savior, I learned to value and protect myself from my abusers. I learned to set boundaries, detach, disengage, distance, from them, etc..long ago. I did those things as child, I believe, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as I knew nothing about healthy survival skills until I was an adult in counseling and read books about abusive parents…I KNEW I WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. I KNEW THEY WERE EVIL. I did not bond with them. I planned my escape all through my childhood and took it ASAP. (Though they continued abusing me as an adult, I used boundaries to limit their abuses. And they targeted me more. As did this sibling! Smears, lies, enabling, covering up, lying for them, gaslighting me with them..
This sibling always DID and STILL DOES, as an adult social worker, CRAVE her abusers’ company and she promotes these wolves and their fake public “act” as decent people and “good christians” every chance she gets.
So she clearly “identifies” and “empathizes” with ABUSERS and not their victims.
I don’t know how on earth she got any license to counsel anyone! And she calls herself a “Christian Counselor” who is promoted and recommended by various local churches to abuse victims!! She goes around asking them to “put her on their list of counselors” and they do it without vetting her background at all!
It grieves me that she is allowed anywhere near abusers or victims of abusers.
I now have No Contact at all with my abusers nor any of their allies or enablers. Praise God for that!
Please pray that she is exposed and kept away from victims and abusers. She is of her father the devil, just as her idols-her abuser parents-are. Please pray that they too are exposed as the wolves in the local church that they are and always have been.
And I’m grateful for Pastor Crippen—thank you!
Wow Z, how very, very, dangerous and sad. Talk about how Satan’s workers can transform into a angel of light. I will be praying for the situation you spoke about.
I dated my abuser for six years. Yes, six years he hid his true self from me before we were married. That is how deceiving these people are. I would never have imagined in a million years that the person I thought I knew for six years was not the person I thought him to be. I would never have believed it if I did not have to go through the nightmare myself. And he does NOT want to change. He likes being evil. Sick.
Reflecting on this some more…
Jeff, I really do appreciate the clarity you bring on this topic.
Personally, I do not believe anyone in this life is beyond the potential help of the saving grace of Jesus Christ through the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
However, to receive salvation one must want to be saved…one must want to change…one must want to be conformed to the image of Christ. God, Himself, does not over-ride our free will to force us to be saved. Mandated accountability groups is not and never will be sufficient.
Second, this has absolutely nothing to do with the abuser’s relationship with the abused. The abusive relationship needs to end, regardless of whether or not the abuser ever repents and receives Christ. One is not contingent on the other…and in fact is more likely to interfere than be of benefit.
My two cents worth… 😉
Well first off, I have never seen accountability programs in the Bible. Funny how all these demanders of having sound doctrine, invented this false one. We are to share our faults with others and bear their burdens. Anyone ever see an abuser step forward, confess his abuse to another so they can hold him accountable? No, no I don’t think so.
Secondly, changing someone’s outward behavior is nothing more than behavior modification and sooner or later, much to the demise of their victims, a dog will always return to his vomit. Chris Moles, for the sake of his own fame, believes he can work or manipulate abusers and the Holy Spirit into modifying abusers, so he looks like a hero. Sound familiar? Seems like a lot of famous leaders have bitten the dust over the years after being caught in their own sickening abuse of others while seeking their own fame.
Simple solution. Remember that the marriage covenant is outlined by God Himself, when He says that He divorced Israel for them not returning His love or appreciating the care and provision He had given to them and for their idolatry and unfaithfulness. Now they weren’t sexual adulterers. They were unfaithful in loving and honoring God. So, the covenant of marriage falls the same way. Married to an abuser? Married to someone who does not return the same love, care and honor you have given and are showing to them? Then you are living in a broken covenant and may in fact be considered just fornicators, by God’s standard.
If an abuser does not seek help on his own, then he has no intention of changing, and we all know that the narcissist will do anything to protect and preserve his image, albeit a false image, so he will comply to preserve his image. He has worked hard to maintain his false Christian charisma and is not going to let go of it easily and admit he’s a fake, a false convert. But Jesus says that all that matters is a new creation, not a veneered portrait of behavior modification. Changing the outside to look good or preserve a broken abusive marriage is the work of the Pharisees. Chris Moles, please take a seat and stop justifying the abuse of spouses and children. Preserving a broken home is worse than letting what is broken go, so the spouse and children can be healed and whole again.
I don’t ever see in the Bible, where Jesus says to go home, submit to abuse and pray for your spouse or to lose your life or mind for them, nor to fight for a marriage filled with abuse or constantly walking in egg shells and in fear. What He does say is that if the spouse (abusive one) will not be content to live with their spouse in peace, then the believing spouse is to leave, because as believers, we have been called to peace. That means that God expects marriage to be a residence of peace, period.