Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

God's Law is Spiritual, but Churches are Limiting it to Outward Actions

Rom 7:14  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

You have all heard it over and over again, right? But he never physically abused her. Therefore what the abuser has done and continues to do is not a crime. It is not really even a sin in the thinking of most Christians. Just a small thing. As long as he doesn’t hit her. That’s the thing you see.
A friend recently sent me a link to a great article by Evan Stark entitled “Re-presenting Battered Women: Coercive Control and the Defense of Liberty.”  Stark is an associate professor of public administration, director of the master’s in public health program at Rutgers Universtiy-Newark and author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. What Stark is demonstrating  is that most domestic abuse is non-physical and can most correctly be termed “coercive control.” Furthermore, he says that this coercive control (its presence and extent) is a far more accurate predictor of physical and fatal violence than other more traditionally tracked factors. And he proposes that our statutes and laws need to be reframed so as to make these non-physical coercive control tactics criminal. In other words, we need to be pro-active and take action against these less visible yet very damaging abuse tactics. [NOTE: Unfortunately Stark’s philosophy is that we can hold abusers to a level of accountability so they will fear to abuse and might even cease being abusers. He does not like the idea that abusers should be put out of the church, but we should strive to keep them present in the church so that we can hold them accountable when they abuse. Wrong. Unbiblical. Scripture is plain that we are to put evil out from among us].
In a sense, what Stark is saying is that we need to enforce the spirit of the law, not just the overt and outward act. And is that not exactly what the Apostle Paul is saying in the above Scripture – the Law is spiritual. Paul came to realize, in considering the 10th commandment, “you shall not covet,” that God’s Law requires heart/soul obedience, not just outward conformity. This is when he knew he was condemned and guilty whereas before, he was just sure that he was righteous by his law-keeping.
So then, we are led to ask, how is it that churches are limiting domestic abuse to outward, visible, tangible acts of physical abuse? Well, he never hit you did he? That is as if to say, it is only a sin if he physically abuses you. As long as he never lays hands on you, you have no grounds to complain.
Really? Is that how God views sin? Did not Christ say that murder and adultery are most often committed in the heart though there be no outward act? That the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones? But all this is apparently being ignored by pastors and churches who chant the mantra, “but he never actually physically abused you.”


The Wrong Questions are Being Asked to Discern Truth or Falsehood


Local Churches Have Become Primary Lairs for Abusers


  1. The greatest control an abuser has is control of the soul and emotions. This is what the devil is all about?
    Rae Radika ________________________________

  2. Yes, I SO agree with you!

  3. IrisJane

    Covert abuse is a hideous evil that assassinates the soul, spirit, heart and mind…and then the body due to the incredible stress of it all. It’s a daily battle that wears one out and destroys any trace of life, joy, or hope. Such a struggle to keep going and to keep ‘standing’…the armor gets pretty battered.
    I try to remember, when things are at their worst, that Jesus went through this type of abuse, of course with the horrendous added physical abuse as well, and that He understands.
    May He strengthen all who are suffering so.

  4. no one down here

    You have heard it said, thou shalt not kill… but I say, whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgement… whoever calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire.
    You have heard it said, thou shalt not commit adultery, but I say, whoever looks on a woman to lust has already committed adultery (porn = adultery)
    Sacrifices of God are a broken spirit… the Lord will not refuse a broken and contrite heart.
    this people draws near me with their mouth, and with their lips, they honor me… but they have removed their heart far from me…
    Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross. He who hates, disguises it with his lips and lays up deceit within himself. when he speaks kindly, DO NOT BELIEVE HIM, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
    Woe to you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! you are like whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but are within full of dead bones and all uncleanness.
    The scribes and pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Do not ye after their works—their works they do to be seen of men. they have uppermost rooms at feasts, chief seats in synagogues, greetings in the markets, are called Rabbi of men. But woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! ye devour widows’ houses and for pretence, make long prayer. You will receive the greater damnation. Ye pay tithes… but omit weightier matters of law, judgement, mercy, faith. Ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within you are full of extortion and excess. Ye serpents… how can you escape the damnation of hell?!
    Throughout Scripture… the emphasis is on the heart, not actions. It is clear that right actions will flow out of a heart that loves God wholly, but it is also clear that it is possible to appear with good actions, but be ultimately rejected by God because of a wicked heart.
    Guard your heart, for out of it flow all the issues of life.

  5. Change Agent

    Being chased through the house, trying to lock doors to shield yourself (while pregnant) after being told that you will listen to a screaming rant when you calmly shared that you needed some quiet time is an example of that control and menacing that people minimize and fail to see as a sign of greater issues.
    Jesus absolutely understands and his children are precious to Him. He does not accept abuse from any source and neither should the church.+

  6. Z

    I so agree with you that thinking of the abuse our Savior endured helps give me some perspective all the abuse I’ve suffered. The coercive control, covert and overt sexual abuses, and the constant physical abuse on top of the ongoing verbal and mental abuses (which ARE predictive of likely eventual physical abuse and we intrinsically know that threat is always there whether it’s spoken in a threat or left unspoken). Our Jesus suffered them ALL to a degree I can’t even imagine. And He was Perfect! Sinless. He, like us victims, did nothing to deserve it. It was all about the darkness in the hearts of His abusers. He was LIGHT shining and pointing out their DARKNESS. just by His existence. The same “threat” we unknowingly are to our abusers. Who sometimes without their realizing their agreement with satan to destroy our LIGHT OF JESUS IN US that is a threat to them, their darkness and definitely to their father satan, whose JOB is to steal, kill and destroy us. But he needs human allies to assist him. They willingly allow satan to use them as his puppets. Because they live in DARKNESS and have many different personal shortcomings, feelings of insecurities, jealousies, needing to control and dominate and other mental issues that in their minds make us appear to be threats to them in the human realm. So they personally want to destroy us for their human reasons and then satan taps into that desire and uses it to try to steal, kill and destroy us completely.
    I “get” your description of being battered by the daily battles both human and spiritual. Our armors get so dented and damaged. PTSD is often an outcome for many who survive and even leave their abusers. So the battle continues even AFTER they are non-existent in our lives (lovely “parting gift” huh?). Satan uses their damage done to us to continue to attack our minds and bodies even after we leave or go No Contact. But we have the Helmet of Salvation to use protect our minds. And the Shield of Faith to make the fiery darts of the enemy bounce right off our Shield. And the Sword of the Spirit-the Word of God-to refute the lies of satan. And all the other weary and battered weapons of our warfare.
    I pray you and every other person going through any type or level of this battle of abuse find strength from ☝🏽the Lord’s Strength when you (me too!) feel you can’t cope. He can and will carry us. Every time, forever. 🙏🏽s for you all.

  7. I don’t know how often I have said: “I wish he would have hit me, at least then I would have had proof.

  8. Innoscent

    Those who use the “he-didn’t-hit-you-physically” mantra have got no excuse whatsoever. It’s pure willful blindness on their part. Indeed, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out how evil or military or marketing operates, and yes abuse as well. It always starts with propaganda, mind games, and the like, eversince the devil’s times in heaven, like Rae Radika said.
    Most Christians ignore half of the Bible when the mental side of violence isn’t even on their radar. Evil is premeditated in the heart we are told by James. No doubt about that! And when perpetrated, it’s even more harmful to the heart and mind than the body. Unfortunately…
    (And Stark would do well to read at least Revelation 12. God kicked out Satan and his followers from heaven, He did! Even mercy runs out one day –game over– and justice takes over.)

  9. walkinginlight

    I remember back in the late 90’s in our support group, our Christian counselor (she had a masters degree) asked us ladies (there were about twelve of us) which was worse. Physical or mental/emotional abuse? everyone single lady including myself, all said without hesitation “mental/emotional” abuse. Our counselor did agree with us. I have also had the physical abuse as a child. Thinking of the way my anti-husband would toy around with my emotions and mind, I would have much rather he had just punched me or let me have it physically. He would gaslight me something awful and I did not know at the time that what he was doing had a name and was done intentionally by him so he would not be responsible for his evil! If I had a nickel for every time he “promised” to stop being so mean to me I would be very wealthy. I think of the Lord saying a good tree can not bear bad fruit, and bad tree can not bear good fruit, so therefore we know them by the fruit they bear. Abusers can not bear any good fruit no matter if it might “seem” to be good. It is all a evil illusion to trap and control. The Lord will punish these evil doers in a way that we can not.

  10. Change Agent- No Toxic Relationships

    It is amazing how willingly ignorant people in positions to help choose to be. They minimize and victim blame with no regard for the safety the target. Someone punching doors and screaming, while chasing you is interpreted as you being sensitive and easy to startle. When a lock is required to keep space between yourself and someone else clearly there is an issue. When someone sets up cover stories for an abuser and perpetrates violence in the form of slander and menacing to keep you from talking or others from believing your story clearly there is an issue. There is no relationship immune to the devastating reach of an abuser. Those inside the church who fail to recognize that truth and choose to attack the target do not know the Spirit of Christ and those outside the church who foster hate and abuse are simply sin sick.

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