It’s common that individuals who come in regular contact with a woman experiencing domestic abuse don’t know about it. She doesn’t want you to. And you won’t see it. Why?
- It’s embarrassing. She can’t believe it’s happening and letting others know how her husband speaks and acts toward her is incredibly shame-full.
- She is in denial. Perhaps she believes him when he says he didn’t do anything wrong, it’s all her fault, she asked for it, it takes two to tango, it isn’t “that bad.”
- She is in survival mode. This goes hand-in-hand with #2. You cannot survive, stay married, keep a level of sanity and stay in this place if you see it for what it is.
- Who would believe her? She has tried to ask for help. She has talked to her pastor, a church leader, woman, family member and everyone seems to think it’s simply a matter of praying more, doing something better or differently. They must be right.
- Her husband doesn’t act that way in public. People may think he’s rude, “difficult,” a jerk, a loner, but they have no idea what he’s like without the buffer of other eyes. While other men may restrain themselves, these men don’t.
For many of those same reasons, when she needs help the most, you’ll be the last to know. You weren’t safe enough to hear. You sent her back home. You didn’t believe her. You valued her as a wife more than a person. You believe marriage is the ultimate goal. You defended her husband.
Then, when the rubber hits the road and she reaches out to someone who does hear, see, and is willing to help, you won’t know until after decisions have been made. She’s at mile marker 279 in her story. She’s hit the end of the line and she doesn’t have time for you to catch up from mile marker 12. You need to join her, allow God to test and grow your faith, your love for Him and others instead of holding tightly to your own understanding and cultural beliefs of what you think God’s Word says/means.
Stop and consider that these may be the widow and fatherless referred to in the Bible. Just because someone made a vow and signed a paper does not mean he loves, honors, cherishes, protects and provides for those in his home. In instances of male domination, the greatest danger to a woman and children’s well-being is in their home where the perpetrator has access and privacy. In secret, he has groomed, trained, and, for lack of a better word, brainwashed, them with Scripture, force, threats, and punishment.
If you know, when you know, follow the victim’s lead. She’s the expert. She knows what to expect. She knows what pushes his buttons, when she’s safe and when she’s not, how to interpret his words, gestures, and actions. If there are children in the home (or dependent adults), it requires an extra measure of expediency. Provide options. Give her room to consider pro’s and con’s. Allow her to call the shots. Do what you can to help. Give her room to be who she is and allow her to act instead of being on the defensive, constantly having to react.
You may not know until it’s out of your hands. That’s not wrong. It doesn’t mean she’s wrong. It’s a result of sowing and reaping, of sanctification. It’s one of “all things” God uses for good in each of our lives. When we’re unwilling and unable to learn and grow, to take a risk and be challenged, we’ve grown stiff-necked. Growing in our awareness and ability to help in crisis is an opportunity for everyone to be more like Jesus: more compassionate, dependent on the Father, sacrificially loving and trusting.
That’s why you don’t know.
God stands in the divine assembly;
he pronounces judgment among the gods:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and needy;
save them from the power of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:1-4)