If you are a godly woman, lay leader, biblical counselor, or pastor who is unsure how to help, or what to do to in the instance of domestic abuse, this page is for you. The most important principle is that domestic abuse is not a function of the victim–it is the result of an abuser’s desire for power and control. Counseling a woman (or abused man) to be more understanding, submissive, respectful, etc. does not change the dynamic of the relationship. It does not address the sin, but blames the one being sinned against.
In considering abusive individuals, it is worth mentioning that if he (or she) is gregarious and others overlook or excuse inappropriate (sinful) behavior by saying, “Not so-and-so. He’s so ________ (fill in the blank),” it’s time to stop the conversation and start asking questions. The church and its leaders may be guilty of excusing sinful behavior based on the abuser’s charm and other people’s affinity for him. One advocate for victims of domestic abuse states, “Abusers are master-manipulators; they make themselves valuable; they form connections—but isolate the victim. The victim knows she’s at a disadvantage in her faith community. Without meaning to, faith leaders are dismissive or undermining or don’t believe what’s happening because of those other connections.”
How can biblical counselors address isolation? The first is obvious. The counselee is in the counseling room, she is no longer isolated from the person counseling her! Sue Nicewander says, “Her husband will work to cut off friends and family but somehow she’s gotten free enough to get to you. She’s available. She doesn’t have to go it alone.” Now, according to Galatians 6:2, others are able to help bear her burden. Dr. Robert Kellemen writes, “[caring Christians] refuse to allow one another to suffer alone. We come alongside one another to grieve together. We understand that shared sorrow is endurable sorrow.” (God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, 22)
This is the perfect opportunity to draw another woman alongside a counselee as an advocate. An advocate is a mature Christian woman with a love, desire, and ability to minister specifically to this woman, acting as a friend and go-between with a biblical counselor and victim. This individual will take phone calls, answer questions, meet for personal Bible study, and provide accountability. Assigning an advocate to a victim of abuse puts one more set of eyes on the situation and enlarges, maybe doubles, the victim’s circle of contact.
Other ways to counter isolation are to pray for women who seem withdrawn and difficult to engage, extend polite conversation and niceties in public, touch base in a way that doesn’t interfere with family life, make oneself available, listen, and believe a woman who expresses concern or fear about her husband.