The Church’s Response to My Story of Domestic Abuse – Part 3 of The Series
12 November 2021
How would your church rate in response to Domestic Abuse? Please read the following article to see what you and your church can do to be the best advocate for families of Domestic Violence!
How My Relationship with The Church for My Domestic Violence Began
My relationship with the church regarding my domestic abuse began in the late fall of 2019. I had reached out to a Pastor from the church at that point regarding my struggles. The Pastor said, “to put myself in another room” if I felt arguments would escalate to harm but that they would not meet with me without my husband for counseling (which my husband refused to do). The church’s goal was reconciliation, and I could only leave if there were a physical danger.
I met with a female counselor on staff of the church in early 2020 to help work on me and my response to my situation while my kids were in school, but then COVID-19 hit, and the sessions had to end due to the kids online learning at home. We were able to communicate through an app called Marco Polo, which allows video messaging, on a sporadic basis.
Heightened Domestic Abuse
My husband’s controlling behavior began increasing throughout this time, including monitoring of my locations, spending, phone calls, texts, etc. He would also leave for weeks at a time to go hunting or see friends, despite owning a business. If I did not agree to his terms, threats were made for more restrictions. Through all of this, I continued to talk with the counselor when I could on the Marco Polo app. Beginning in the fall of 2020, I started feeling more in danger and told the church counselor. She then pulled out the Power and Control Wheel to ask me questions to help me determine if I was in a domestic abuse situation. This conversation was my first realization of what I was experiencing because I had previously believed you were in a domestic abuse situation only if you were physically harmed, which had not occurred. It would have been so helpful if this wheel had been discussed earlier in my journey!
The church then put me in touch with the Called to Peace ministry, which helped me develop my Safety Plan (which the church did not have). I waited for an advocate to help me walk through my escape day. The advocate had lined up a family from the church for my kids and me to stay with (all of the women’s shelters were full due to COVID-19). I was able to flee on December 4, 2020. Some counties offer great programs like Interact. However, I live in a low-income county, and these resources are not available unless you live within the county to access the programs.
What Was Helpful from the Church:
- Having counselors on staff
- Having a Pastor “assigned” to my case to work as a mediator between my husband and me
- Offering the Called to Peace classes at church
- Providing a food pantry and household items to set up my safe house
- Providing the rent to pay for the safe house
- The prayer and support of the church and many of its members who have learned of my story
But What Would Have Been Helpful from the Church:
- Having a counselor trained in Domestic Abuse to help me identify earlier
- Development of a program to walk alongside me from beginning to end towards independence
- Legal, tax, and physical health advisors who volunteer to help me navigate these issues
- Childcare for counseling sessions
- Trauma therapy for the kids
- Not to have “Need Help” boxes in open public restrooms, but inside individual stalls for privacy
- CARE teams
- Follow-up Bible Studies and a Single Mom’s Adult Bible Fellowship
Although my church is still relatively new at developing programs and plans to help women of Domestic Abuse, I am grateful to hear they have been able to help about 20 women in the last few years. Unfortunately, MANY churches have nothing in place. Churches need to create action plans and CARE teams to help address the increased demand and reach these ladies and children with the love of Christ. Thank you for hearing my story and praying for my four kids and me over these three issues of the Barnabas Letter.