Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Your Experience is a Foreign Language to Most People

Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Many years ago I received a yearly prayer letter from people I did not know all that well but who had been in a church we attended at that time. The letter asked for prayer in regard to their daughters who had, they said, been estranged from them and cut off all contact. It went on to say that the source of the problem stemmed from their daughters consulting a therapist who had planted false memories in the girls.

Now, what I want to attempt to communicate to you is how I reacted to that letter. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t think a whole lot about it. To my knowledge the parents were fine Christian people. So I didn’t really choose up sides – and let me tell you why.

This scenario was beyond the paradigm of my mind. It was like a foreign language – or better – an alien language.

I just didn’t know about such things. I had never personally experienced a situation like this, and therefore my mental programming had no real capacity to understand it. I was not wise about evil. And in such settings, it is inevitable that the whistleblowers (in this case the daughters) are not going to be so much disbelieved, as they are going to be met with a kind of blindness and deafness. Which blindness and deafness is naturally going to gravitate toward accepting the claims of the accused perpetrator of whatever evil is being called out. (I told you I was going to TRY to explain this!)

When a victim of some kind of wickedness – especially the kind that parades as an angel of light – …when the victim reports the thing, this inability to process the data comes into play very, very often. And I suppose it especially does so in local churches and other Christian settings where naivete to evil so often reigns.

To a large extent, this is what the Apostle means in the verse above (Hebrews 5:14). We must be trained by constant practice to be wise to evil. No one ever sat me down and said “Jeff, you need to learn about evil and how it works in life. What it looks like. How evildoers disguise themselves.” But have you ever heard of a seminary course or a church Sunday School class dealing with this very topic? Pretty rare. So, a seminary graduate launches off into a pastoral career and guess what is going to happen when a woman (or man) in his church comes to him asking for help with child molestation or domestic violence?

You may as well be feeding a mathematics problem into a word processor application. It isn’t going to compute.

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5 Comments

  1. This is so good.

    Coming face to face with people caught up in abuse without any experience with it churns up confusion, chaos and doubt. Even well-meaning people respond by detaching, afraid to get involved or believe one side or the other.

    I can’t count the number of victims I’ve worked with who have been subject to this very painful, potentially traumatic disconnect from people they thought would come alongside and support them – but didn’t. They had no idea how abusers operate or how to identify a victim.

    I’ve come to a place where I believe that only people who have “been there” are fully equipped to support abuse victims. Surviving abuse as a believer is – more often than not – a very lonely road.

    Thank you for expounding upon this frustrating aspect of the dynamic…

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    • Innoscent

      Dear Cindy, I’ve come to the same conclusion as I see the dire state of affairs with my family, my friends and my church after I got out of emotional abuse I suffered for years. The majority have let me down, many think I made it all up, others have conveniently remained neutral, and anyway how could I leave such a lovely husband? Something must be very wrong with me…

      Your last before last paragraph could be the words of one sibling who finally got it. In the last few months I’ve had the comfort of one nephew in his late teens who opened his eyes because of a manipulative brother who has done a lot of damage within his close family.

      First my nephew reached out to me (as he knows I’m a Christian) after he lost his beloved grandma, which led him to ask about life, death, God, etc. He then shared about his family situation and said how he now understands and believes me. We are on the same page. He also sees how our greater family has no clue and have let me down.

      He also suffers the sad reality of other people not getting it and some even betraying him. The more he treads on the path of an abuse victim, the deeper his bewilderment about the dark world of evil and the devil. But also the deeper our bond and the closer to God. I praise Him for this soul who’s searching the Truth and that we can speak the same language.

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  2. Innoscent

    Spot on Jeff! Thank you for sharing your before-and-after experience.
    At one stage (the fog phase) we, as victims, couldn’t decipher the tactics of evil. Why? As you pointed out -which I find super frustrating- there is no teaching, training about the strategies of the devil and his agents. We are engaged in a war deprived of the very knowledge and understanding we specifically need to detect and defeat the enemy.

    It is as if we are expected to drive a car by crashing it again and again, get bruised, ruined and traumatised, until we know how to safely drive. That is total nonsense from the church leaders!! You first learn the Highway Code, then take driving lessons, right?

    Yet this is one huge characteristic of evil, that it is **disguised**. Military use coding systems and devices to communicate secretly. Should we expect less from the archenemy of God and His people?

    Thick scales are on most of the eyes of God’s leadership and folks regarding abuse, as well as paralysis. They are spoonfed, immature as to the truth and their duties as Christian soldiers, incapacitated and end up becoming agents for the devil against abuse victims.

    “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” Jer 5:21
    “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” … Hos 4:6

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  3. Freedom

    Agree with, and can relate to all of the above. In horror have also heard the “poor me” stories of the people that were 1) either the hidden or protected abuser 2) the abuser’s direct or indirect allies – church, friends, family, parents included. It’s a reverse of the entire situation- I had no true idea what the survivors went through until I was one. now it’s a calling to be there for other survivors when they are unclenching the jaws of the abusers/satan.

    Praise God he brought us through it, and praise God we have the discernment now to see right through it – even the best of the pretenders don’t get past.

    Once you finally break free from the grips of satan – you really are free – he can no longer hide in the church, in the “friends”, in the “family” etc. you once believe in and trusted – your new friends/ family is that of our Lord, those he brings to us through the life of his very own son – he suffered for, died for and rose up for this – finally…..it is, in a very raw but very real form, freedom.

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    • It Still Hurts

      Freedom, I can relate to the “poor me” stories from enablers after going no-contact with an abuser. It was bad enough for the enablers to bother me with what the estrangement was supposedly doing to the abuser. What I didn’t expect was how the enablers would pester me about what the estrangement was supposedly doing to them. Whining because they hate being “caught in the middle” even though they’re the ones who kept putting themselves there contrary to my requests, how they’ll have to plan separate get-togethers now, how I was “cruel,” etc. These were people who always lived far away and hadn’t ever been involved much with my life. I hadn’t seen or heard from them at all in years, even at holidays and birthdays. So why were they acting like this cut-off impacted them so much? It’s not like there was a big weekly Sunday dinner that would be affected. They absolutely heard from others what happening all those years in real-time, though. In fact, self-preservation is probably one of the reasons that they kept their distances. These types probably come out of the woodwork after there’s a cut-off because they can no longer kid themselves from afar that the long-term abuse is just a “challenging relationship sometimes but they always make up.”

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