From The Desk Of Darlene J. Harris – The Church’s Silence On Domestic Violence by Ruth Odia


The below article was brought to my attention by Teresa Welch, Director of S’entraider a High Risk Group working with Domestic Violence.  Below is a brief description of the group’s specialized focus.  We will post information about the specialized areas in the future.

Our goal is to serve our community of followers in a way that will edify, educate, and inform.


S’entraider :”helping one another” in French

This is a help group for High Risk Domestic Violence victims, our friends were associated with men/women who are in Law Enforcement. Shelters are not the solution for everyone. Sometimes our friends just need to get a way to think about the next move. We can only help single people or who have no child with the abuser because of legal issues.

Our area we work with

1. Police

2. Law Enforcement

3. Firemen

4. Military

5. Judicial

Ruth Odia

I enjoy writing and have published one book in 2009: The Kingdom of God: A Children’s First Daily Devotional.

For most of my professional life, I have worked as an Administrator. I currently teach French on a part-time basis and am a busy mother of five. I enjoy nature and exploring the great outdoors. I hold a master’s degree in Public Administration from the American Public University.

The following article was written for the Prophecy News Watch

If a short list was made of the issues the American church does not talk about from the pulpit, sexual and domestic violence would probably top the list. According to Rick Santos, President and CEO of IMA World Health, there is little information out there about what is actually happening in the U.S. faith community on this issue.

What makes the poll unique is that there is not much data on how pastors view and address the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Why are most churches all but totally silent on the issue of abuse? Researchers found about 4 in 10 (42 percent) pastors “rarely” or “never” speak about domestic violence. Less than a quarter (22 percent) speaks to their church about the issue once a year.

Violence against women was named as a “significant public health issue” by the World Health Organization in 2013, which reported that 35 percent of women around the globe have experienced sexual or physical abuse by a partner or non-partner. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the chance of a man experiencing abuse at the hand of an intimate partner was one in four.

A recent LifeWay Research pastor’s survey is one of the first of its kind on the topic of domestic violence. For many Protestant pastors, domestic violence is the pro-life issue they almost never talk about.

The report states that based on the number of times they speak to their congregations about sexual or domestic violence each year, the majority of pastors do not consider sexual or domestic violence central to larger religious themes such as strong families, a peaceful society, pursuing holiness, social justice, etc.

Pastors also tend to downplay the possibility domestic violence can affect their congregation. About 3 in 10 (29 percent) believe domestic violence is not a problem in their church. 72 percent are more likely to say it is a problem for their community.

The LifeWay Research found that most Protestant senior pastors say they know victims of domestic violence and believe stopping abuse is a pro-life issue. But those pastors seldom address domestic violence from the pulpit. And less than half have been trained in how to help victims. More than half of senior pastors don’t have sufficient training to deal with cases of domestic or sexual violence, the survey shows. But 81 percent of pastors say they would help reduce domestic violence if they had more training.

Those are among the findings of a new telephone survey of 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The survey was co-sponsored by two Christian non-profits: Washington, D.C.-based Sojourners and Maryland-based IMA World Health.

It is evident that there is a gap between occurrence and awareness. Rev. Jane Eesley of Christ United Methodist Church said that it is important to let parishioners know clergy will not judge them, but love and care for them. Eesley also stated that in her view, people should not be kept in abusive relationships: “When you send a person who is abused back to an abuser, it’s enabling the abuse.”

Ed Stetzer, President of LifeWay Research Division said: “When two-thirds of pastors address the issue of domestic violence in church one time a year or less, we have a serious disconnect with the realities of American life,” Stetzer continued: “Pastors cannot ignore or downplay the issue, when lives are being ruined—and sometimes lost—through sexual and domestic violence right in their own communities and churches. The church needs to be part of the solution here. This is an issue where people of faith, across theological lines, can speak together that it matters, we care, and it must change.” Stetzer also added: “The gospel sets prisoners free—and that includes victims of domestic violence, who often feel like prisoners in their own home. “Pastors can do more to proclaim that message.”

Justin Holcomb, co-author of Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence, said some abusers use scriptures like Malachi 2:16—which says God hates divorce in some translations—against their victims. He believes pastors can counteract that message and as much as God hates divorce, He also hates the abuse of women.

Most pastors (74 percent) know of a friend, family member or church member who has experienced domestic violence. And most (83 percent) say they would turn to outside experts in order to address cases of domestic violence. But more than half (62 percent) have also provided “couples or marriage counseling” to those experiencing domestic violence. Advocates for victims say that is a dangerous practice, especially for women who are victims of abuse. Holcomb reported that a counseling session may actually lead to more violence when the couple return home and the woman has to pay for it.

Pastors have used the following responses when dealing with domestic and sexual violence situations:

Provided a referral to a service agency – 70%

Provided marriage or couples counselling – 62%

Provided private counselling with the abuser – 43%

Conducted a safety risk assessment with the victim – 31%

Have not dealt with domestic violence situations – 15%

Other – 7%

Rev. Amy Gopp, Director of Member Relations and Pastoral Care at Church World Service said, “I hope this report will educate faith leaders about the importance of reaching out to domestic violence programs in their communities and creating strong partnerships so that survivors are served in the way they deserve.”

Some churches have sought to confront domestic violence. According to author and blogger John Shore, there are six reasons why pastors struggle with addressing domestic violence:

– The issue is fundamentally unbelievable and incomprehensible to most people – even pastors

– Wife abusers are masterful manipulators and sociopaths.

– Pastors also think spousal abuse only happens in certain kinds of families;

– Pastors have not thought enough about the gray area between “submit” and abuse;

– Pastors believe what they preach;

– Pastors simply are not trained on domestic violence.

Despite the poll’s major finding — that pastors underestimate the pervasiveness of sexual and domestic violence in their congregations — the report offers some hope. Of the pastors polled, 81 percent reported that they would “take appropriate action to reduce sexual and domestic violence if they had the training and resources to do so.”

Some communities are beginning to actively engage churches to expand their involvement in combating domestic violence. The Rockford community, led by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, is taking a stand by appealing to faith organizations to help, as clergy may be a vast and largely untapped resource in the fight to break the painful cycle.

Morrissey said: “I asked for this map to be put together, a kind of heat map where we overlaid our domestic violence calls over all our churches, synagogues, temples and places of worship. What you find ironically is that in an area with a high activity level of domestic violence, we also have a ton of churches.”

Rockford Police Department Deputy Chief Dave Hopkins said that the role that clergy could play in this fight is not clear, and that protecting victims of domestic violence should be a top priority for anyone working on the issue, but sometimes faith organizations prioritize family preservation over separation. Victims often feel trapped and may feel their lives are in danger, but they are also afraid that leaving an abusive spouse is a sin.

The Rockford Police Department responds on average to three domestic disturbance or violence calls a day. The department received an average of 365 domestic violence-related calls for service per month the first five months of 2014. That number went up in May to 418.

Shelter Care Ministries Director Lou Ness organized a domestic violence training seminar for clergy in Rockford and encouraged churches to develop domestic violence policies. Morrissey said the training session was a first step in the effort to better include clergy in the fight against domestic violence.

Jesus Christ said in John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Individuals, families and communities in Christ are called to change the world by showing the power of love.

And finally: Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.