Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Part Three – The Damage Women's and Men's Ministries can do

This is another excellent comment left in response to the post on this subject last week. Amy tells her story and her insights are right on. I wanted to be sure everyone sees what she wrote, so here it is in this stand alone post.  Thank you Amy!

Oh the stories I could tell of women’s bible classes and retreats. I never did feel comfortable at any of them, but felt pressured to attend because that is what would make me a better Christian woman/wife.

I remember walking into a new women’s bible class at my former church about a month or so after my then-abusive-husband walked out and the elderly woman who was leading it started the class off by stating how there would be NO prayer requests in that class because we were not there to share our troubles. o.O This was the same woman who stopped me after service one day and whispered, ‘If you ever want to hear about how I saved my marriage, just let me know” and walked away! I was like the woman with the red letter plastered across her chest, except my letter was a D(ivorce)! Few of the women ever asked how I was or if I needed anything, and the night in that bible study class I felt the comment was said directly to me.

At a women’s retreat I attended with maybe 10 other women from my church, I felt so alone and realized that unless you followed the good Christian women model of appearing happy no matter what was happening in your marriage and never ever talked about it, because of course that would be gossiping, you make everyone else uncomfortable and are not one of the pack.

At this retreat which took place about 2 years before my ex walked out but during an extremely painful time in that marriage, there were women from a few other churches that attended it too, and on the last day before we all left we formed a circle to pray. As the leader was praying, I started feeling so sick because I knew I was going back to the lion’s den when I got home and I just started to break down. I tried holding back the tears but once the prayer ended and everyone was starting to say goodbye, I just dropped to my knees in tears and the woman from my church who was beside me tried pulling me up almost in disgust, never asking what was wrong or offering me a hug, just wanting me to get up and stop embarrassing her. Not ONE woman in that room said anything to me, asked if I was alright or needed prayer or anything! On the bus back home, not one of the women from my church sat with me or talked with me, I knew at that moment truly how alone I was. 😦

I truly always thought it was just me, I was just different, but no matter how much I tried I ,never felt I fit in during any women’s events. The last one I attended was a Mother’s Day brunch on a Saturday afternoon and it just happened that an hour before I left home my then-husband was berating my youngest son over some stupid thing and I can see so clearly now how it was my ex’s way of ruining the event for me as he always did. When I left the house that day to go to the church for the brunch, my youngest son came running out to me, begging me to take him with me. I kissed him and hugged him, and told him I wouldn’t be long. I was sick to my stomach the whole time at the brunch for leaving my son at home. I’ve never forgiven myself for that. 😦 And as I sat silently, with tears in my eyes at the brunch, not one, not ONE woman asked me how I was. I never went back to any women’s events after that.

Thank you, Pastor Crippen, for speaking up about the atrocities which happen in the church, you are freeing so many victims of abuse with your words and are helping those in the process of healing to understand the truth.

This Series:

Part Two – The Damage Men’s and Women’s Ministries Typically Do

Men’s and Women’s Ministries as a Seedbed for Abuse


Part Two – the Damage Men's and Women's Ministries Typically Do


Part 1 – Critique of Pastor Screwtape's Letter


  1. Amy, I am so so sorry for your pain and the unloving, unbiblical way you were treated. Thank you for bravely sharing part of your story. I’m thanking God for you today.
    I agree with you about the blessing God is giving so many through Jeff’s writings. Thank you, Jeff, for the scriptural truth you boldly proclaim and for the empathy and love of a genuine shepherd that you display.

  2. Amy

    Thank you, Pastor Crippen for sharing my comment and thank you for all you do to bring to light the darkness that is often found in our churches oppressing victims of abuse.
    I suppose my experience differs from that of Wingingit’s in that mine was more covert. The church I attended didn’t overtly appear patriarchal but it was. I can look back today and see there is this underlying message in the teachings, and men’s and women’s groups.
    When my ex walked out 11 years ago, only one elderly woman talked with me. Not one of the younger women ever asked how I was, most avoided me, even the pastor’s wife never came over to see if I needed anything or just to talk. I got the impression that they were purposely trying to steer clear of me, this woman who was not acting in a godly way and was, gasp, choosing to divorce! I’ve often wondered how many other women in that church were (are) living with abuse disguised as good Christian marriages.
    How grateful I am to finally know the truth and have my eyes opened to the lies surrounding Christianity and abuse.

  3. no one down here

    so sorry. These things ought not so to be.
    After all the ugly was put out in the open for me … one dear person tried to minister to me in anyway she could. Asked me to lunch. I knew that the lunch was not going to be a pretty affair, so brought a friend as backup. the conversations were fairly okay, except I was definitely on guard. Finally, whew … I could safely say I needed to leave … but lest any opportunity be wasted, out it came. The magic book of how to pray as a wife. And how that book had changed lives of people she knew. and how she now understood that it really wasn’t about changing a husband. it was about changing yourself.
    I don’t recall what I said. My friend tried to help out. I don’t recall what she said. I do know that this person really wanted to help. I don’t blame her at all.
    What I wanted to say would have been about how I had spent every year of the entire marriage working on myself. I had prayed for him, prayed for me … prayed for everything to change, prayed for me to be a better wife, more holy. I had worked harder on changing me, never him — It was clear from the beginning that I could not change him, only me. Her revolutionary idea of “not changing the husband” wasn’t revolutionary at all. After all that praying and working, was I now the perfect martyr wife? um…. no. Still have a long way to go in showing God’s grace in everything I do or say or think. Clearly. But … again, focus is changing myself, not another person.
    I am so very aware that only God can change any person. Not me.
    My next point would have been that, praise God, He rescued me from the oppression, it was clear that God had done this thing, and if I were to go back when there was no change … it would have been me slapping God in the face and saying – I don’t want your help, God. You didn’t do the right thing, God. Your glory is limited to being seen in only one way. God, You can’t surprise us with what is, after all, the best plan for our lives… You can’t judge wickedness, God.
    Of course, all that is NOT true about God. God’s glory is not seen in only one way. God’s glory is seen when the sun rises, when the stars dance, when the moon pulls the tide, and it will be seen in the end of all things when the stars fall and all the sinful cursed earth is destroyed … and remade as new. His glory is seen when unholy sinners become His child and he changes them…. and when wicked sinners who do not change are judged. Among other things. How can we limit God’s glory, and how can we dictate His plan?

    • frankiesmith2064

      I can relate so much to all of the comments. I beat myself during the abuse and bullying from members of my para church organization. I examined myself, I prayed, I questioned my part in the confusing abusive situation.
      Of course I was confused I did nothing wrong. I was at the mercy of an evil pack of wolves that enjoyed devouring me. I couldn’t fix it because I was for peace my abuser and his allies were for war. When the abuser wants war an innocent victim will never win.
      My abuser was a head leader in the para church organization. He smear campaigned me to all the other leadership. The others in leadership were wicked as well and joyfully listened and supported my abuser in his demeaning attidtude and verbal and physical abuse against me.
      The Bible study leader and music ministers knew I was being manipulated, used and abused and no one called me aside to tell me the truth. No one would help me. I was left alone for far too long in the FOG of abuse. Confusing twisted scriptures swirling around in my head caused me to remain much longer than I should have. Fear that I would be gossiping if I told anyone what I was experiencing coupled with my abusers gathering his allies against me paralyzed me. I was stuck exactly where my abuser wanted me. As he bathed in the acceptance, love and admiration of the church group I was left lonely with the truth of who this monster really is.

    • I read and prayed the prayers in that book about the praying wife for a year. I remember lying on the floor of the empty church building, weeping and praying. A friend, Denise, came in snd prayed aloud for me as I told her the book hadn’t helped. Her eyes showed such empathy and helplessness. I later learned that Denise had left her first oppressive husband and taken some very desperate measures to make sure he couldnt get his claws into her. I reached for every remedy based on the Word! That was in year 29 of the 37½ I was yoked to my oppressor. The Lord set me free, though! Praise Him! He does all things wisely and well!

      • Mhiggins

        WOW…… I thought I was the only one who went through that sort of thing and it wasn’t just at one church it was several. This helps so much. Thank you.

  4. healinginhim

    Pastor Jeff,
    Thank you for these posts. So many of us can relate to the ‘comments’ of others. They help confirm that we are not imagining what we are experiencing. The spiritual abuse from churches towards victims of abuse is staggering.
    I pray for many of us who continue to navigate the dark days as we turn to the “truth” found in the Scriptures, alone; not in some men’s twisted interpretations.
    Thank you, for untwisting the Scriptures.

    • Cara

      Yes, it’s the comments. Both their content and the numbers of comments.
      It’s sad but I still need the validation and confirmation that it wasn’t just me, that it wasn’t my craziness, my imagination, my misunderstanding, my pettiness, my bad attitude, my exaggerating, etc.
      As Amy said, “the good Christian women model of appearing happy no matter what was happening in your marriage and never ever talked about it, because of course that would be gossiping” and I see myself reflected. Such helps the abuser entrap and hold captive their victim all the better and all the longer.
      And thankfully we have moderation with the comments, which is a time-consuming service, so we know we can read the comments without fear.

  5. suzzieq07

    Very timely article Pastor Crippen. I was on my front porch trying to answer questions in “Church of the Small Things” workbook after reading the assigned chapter for this month. Three days from now ladies in our very small Bible Study group will post answers to certain questions selected by the leader. We don’t have to answer if we don’t care to, so we’re not under any real pressure. Thing is, this particular lesson was all about opening ourselves up about our “broken places.” It was stressing how each of us very much needs a friend or friends to confide in to facilitate our healing process.
    I was sitting there reading these probing questions, like “What would make your group a safe place for you to admit to having something broken in your life that needs restoration from Jesus?” and I was feeling resistant, even bristling a bit. I had decided NOT to do the exercise. Quite honestly, no one came to mind that I would feel that comfortable confiding in at my church. These are really nice women mind you, but my past experience (in another church) hadn’t been that satisfactory where it came to confiding in anyone. I had one woman in my life, only one, that I totally trusted and who was a Christian and not a family member. She has since passed away. I do have two other Christian friends that I’d be able to share with, but who aren’t all that “healed” themselves! I know we’re supposed to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and I agree vulnerability has tremendous healing benefit.
    As I thought of who, and where, I am comfortable sharing, this blog came to mind. I think unless someone has been through something very close to what you have experienced as a victim of abuse, it is hard to be a qualified comforter. I just read Page 312 of “Wise as Serpents,” Pastor Crippen’s new book. The lady’s story on that page could have easily been written by me.
    I’m so thankful for this website, it has made a huge difference in how I see myself, even without a really close “girlfriend” to confide in.

    • Jeff Crippen

      I have been in small groups before that pulled that same “you need an accountability partner” nonsense. I always refused.

    • Z

      I can really identify with how you felt… The hesitations and questions you had about finding a “safe person” to whom you’d feel comfortable revealing your broken places. All my “church circle of friends” fled to prop up and support the abusers when I exposed them to these church people. So there was no one left as a safe person in my life. (Except for my husband…) And I do not feel comfortable looking for another church..
      What irritates me is the emphasis in all the Bible studies I’ve been doing on healing from trauma, abuse, anxiety.. to “find your safe people”, “you MUST have a support system”…What about those of us who have been nothing but BURNED BADLY by supposedly “safe people”? Except, as you said, for those who have BEEN THROUGH what we have been through AND are true Christians. Like the commenters on this blog. Unless one has walked in our shoes, it is unlikely a person will care or feel empathy for what we face every day. Professing “christian” or not…
      I’ll stick with my fellow victims and survivors who comment on this blog as my “community”…But thank God we can find comfort and some level of that “necessary for healing” community here in the comments of our true sisters in Christ. On a blog written by a male pastor-a true shepherd-who gets it. Thanks Pastor Crippen for providing us a community of believers who have also been abused by “christian” wolves.

    • Sue

      More like “girlfrienemy!” A co-worker, prior to corona, would brag about being among a group of women who met weekly. Don’t know if she was baiting me into expressing a desire to be included…uh, no thanks.

  6. Allis38

    Thank you Amy for your story. I always felt uncomfortable at woman retreats. I never wanted to go but I was pressured by my ex who was always telling me how I was “not a Christian”. There was a level of cattiness at the retreats (and even in our church) that I never understood. Also there was a hierarchy amongst the women and groups that would not associate with each other except on a superficial level. Ugh! I hated that. I could always feel the negative energy at the things as well as the double messages: be yourself but don’t be yourself; share your burdens but not really. Totally fake.

  7. cindy burrell

    It’s so sad. What Amy and so many others here describe seems to be the norm – the backwards, heartless, ungodly norm.
    My experiences were very much the same. Be the Stepford Christian wife. Pretend you’re not hurting. Try harder. Pray more. Honor God in the midst of your suffering. Have faith that He will fix it. Come to church. And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget your Bible.
    I remember thinking, “If only he would hit me, then maybe someone would care.” For it is almost universally true that, within the contemporary church, if you have no physical scars, you can’t possibly be in pain.

    • Jeff Crippen


    • healinginhim

      I remember thinking, “If only he would hit me, then maybe someone would care.”
      Many years ago I told him to just hit me and throw me into the street so others could really know the truth of my pain.

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