What does Dallas Theological Seminary say about Divorce and Redemption in Cases of Spousal Abuse? (continued)
Here is the rest of my critique of the DTS panel discussion on divorce for domestic abuse. I hope you find it helpful. [You can find the earlier part of my critique here.]
We are picking up the video at the 16:14 mark.
Darrell Bock: Okay, well we’re now to the last section of the video and so now we’re going to turn our attention to watching see how this wraps up.
[The panel watch another video segment showing a survivor whose church told her she couldn't get a divorce and that no believer should go to court against another believer.]
Darrell Bock: Well that obviously puts another issue on the table and that is, not only do we have a problem with divorce, but now we got a problem: we gotta go to court to get a divorce, so that’s two strikes against the person pursuing potentially a breakup of the marriage. I think we’ve probably already answered this to a certain degree but it’s probably worth a reaffirming here. What process do you go through when you’ve tried everything, you’re at the end, the vow has been broken. It’s clear if the person goes back into the house they’re going to be at risk. There is no good conciliatory path to take. What happens and how should communities do that?
Gary Barnes: Well you know I think biblically you just have to accept the truth that in this broken world with broken people one person can’t do the work for two people to have reconciliation occur. That’s a biblical concept. It requires two people. And so even though that would be very regrettable that it’s not able to happen it’s still the next greater good that you would be able to live a life of safety and dignity where you’re not living under control of another individual.
‘One person can’t do the work for two people.’ And all the victims who hear this say Amen!
But then we have the little dagger — ‘it’s regrettable.’ ~~~~Shiver. The victim will feel guilty for causing the church to feel regret. She will feel guilty for letting the Christian side down: Christians getting divorced gives a bad witness to the world, she’s heard that so many times! Probably one of the reasons she hung on to that shell of a marriage was so as not to give a bad witness to the world. And now Mr Barnes pours salt into her wounded (wrongly taught) conscience by saying it is ‘regrettable’ that divorce has to occur. No, Mr Barnes, what is regrettable — nay, reprehensible — is that the abuser has been abusive and the church has guilted the victim for calling her decision to divorce ‘regrettable’.
And for those victims who may be feeling regretful grief about their divorce, I say to you, it’s not a sin to grieve. You are probably grieving the loss of your dreams, hopes, years, the loss of the friend you thought you had when he was being the nice guy (but now you know his niceness was only to suck you back into his web), the loss of your health and finances, and the loss of opportunity to raise your children in a godly environment. And you may be regretting how naive you were, how you didn’t pay enough attention to the red flags, how you could have left years ago, if only that little thing hadn’t happened that tipped you back into the reconciliation and fog again. . .
Darrell Bock: and then the only way we have to do this is to go to court and get the divorce.
Gary Barnes: Because you don’t have two participating parties. So that’s the only recourse.
Darrell Bock: I mean, if the person wants to disentangle themselves not just socially but legally, then that really is the only option. So again, it’s not the best option but it’s a – but we have to sometimes face up to it and say this can’t be put back together. It’s regrettable but it’s the case.
Debby Wade: I think that’s where we have to accept that some of life is so complicated. There’s not just this one answer that’s going to work for everybody or this one solution that is going to be the easiest solution. And where none of these solutions would be easy and there’s going to be a complexity, I think even us as believers have to step outside of our comfort zone in walking alongside people who are hurting in this way. But I think when it comes to it we would never support someone going back into a situation where they are going to be harmed. And if there’s evidence such that change is not taking place we can’t support them in doing that. And so supporting them to make the wisest decision going forward for themselves on what they know they need to do for themselves, it will be the healthiest decision that they can do.
“I think even us as believers have to step outside our comfort zone.” Yes indeed you do. But I would like to point out that victims have been living in a DIS-comfort zone for years — a Himalayan mountain range of fearful discomfort that most non-abused people can barely imagine. So yeah, step outside your comfort zone church, but don’t spend time giving us the pity party of how hard it is for you to make that step! The victims are desperately needing justice. When will more of the church step up to the plate?
Gary Barnes: Yeah. And again we don’t want to just jump to that [i.e. divorce] as the immediate alternative. See if we can allow space and time for the possibility for people to change over time as that would be the better approach. But even if there’s not that change over time, for the person who is the victim and is following through with the divorce that’s also something that is not outside of God’s redeeming work in that individual’s life. And so we want that person to be very much embraced by God’s redeeming work even following that bad situation.
‘We can allow space and time for the possibility of people to change over time.’ People? What people? By not specifying the abuser as the one who needs to change, you’ve implied that both the abuser and the victim need to change. ‘The possibility for people to change’ is a mutualizing expression: ‘people’ is plural, so Barnes is talking about both spouses needing to change. Darell Bock uses the word ‘people’ in a similar way, later in the video.
Please hear this: Mutualizing language is victim-blaming language because it puts some of the fault on of the victim.
We have been hearing for decades: DON’T BLAME THE VICTIM! But victim-blaming language is still very common. It is likely that Barnes and Bock are not aware they are using victim-blaming language. That is how pervasive victim-blaming language still is, and how blind most of society still is to the nature of domestic abuse. We need to keep saying this, despite the pushback from those who don’t like to hear it, till it sinks in and the lightbulbs come on in more people of goodwill.
And while it is indeed true that for divorced survivors of abuse, God can indeed make beauty from ashes, I think you need to know Mr Barnes that your reminders about how God can redeem the victim’s life after divorce are not welcome. You’ve hurt victims over and over again in this video, and you can’t (hem hem) redeem yourself by proffering a few patronizing platitudes.
Darrell Bock: Okay well I think we’re down now to the last segment. Let’s hear the rest of the video.
[The panel watch another segment of the video in which the Director of the Faith Trust Institute, Marie Fortune, mentions physical violence as breaking the covenant and destroying trust, but she does not, in the segment shown on this DST podcast, mention other kinds of abuse.]
Note: the video segments from the Faith Trust Institute which this DTS podcast shows are all pretty good; certainly much less triggering and more informative than the DTS panel discussion is. But we need to let our readers know that Marie Fortune has come out as a lesbian. Therefore, we recommend discernment when using Faith Trust Institute resources. It would appear that either DTS is not aware of Marie Fortune’s sexual preference, or if they are aware of it they find it unproblematic. Certainly, Gary Barnes recommends the Faith Trust Institute as a resource. (See part one of the DTS video podcast where at 2:10 Barnes recommends the Faith Trust Institute.)
Darrell Bock: You know I personally find this particular topic the most difficult in terms of dealing with the exception passage in divorce. You know the two scenarios that the Bible mentions explicitly are sexual immorality (the Greek term is porne) and the other is what’s called unbeliever desertion, that’s called the Pauline exception, 1 Corinthians 7. And I often find myself wondering in all honesty whether a physical abuse doesn’t come under a type of sexual immorality because of the abuse of the person that it represents. I’m curious as counselors what you think of that. That this is such a fundamental violation of the person and of course that’s part of what sexual immorality also is driving at. It’s a violation of the vow in a profound kind of way. If this isn’t encompassed in those exceptions.
Gary Barnes: What I would think biblically on that is, when you mentioned those two grounds for divorce, I don’t really take from scripture anywhere where it says these are the only two grounds. And so I would say yes, those two would be a factor and I don’t really even have to think about how other factors might have to fit under one of those two categories. I think just out of the basic sanctity of life and the heart of God against violence I would say – and as she was saying on the videotape, and of course of all places within a covenant relationship that that one person should not be trapped into a situation like that.
Debby Wade: [quoting from the video where the survivor talked about feeling she had no human rights in her marriage:] “To feel that they have no human rights in their own marriage.” I certainly believe that if there’s psychological abuse and physical abuse, that typically what follows with that is also sexual abuse. And I just don’t think at all that we can encourage somebody to stay in that or prevent them to get help by saying, “I’m sorry, neither one of our categories fall under what’s permitted in the Bible so you have to stay.” I think that’s being able to interpret these things in scripture, but also understanding the heart of God.
See my next comment, a little further down, where I discuss the mention of sexual abuse.
Darrell Bock: You know, one of the things that strikes me about this discussion sometimes, about the nature and grounds for divorce is, if you look at 1 Corinthians 7, Paul teaches with an awareness of what it is that Jesus taught. He even refers to this as ‘my word, this is not the word of the Lord.’ Whatever it is that he knew that Jesus said, gave him the comfort zone, if I can say it that way, to talk about unbeliever desertion as a category even though it wasn’t explicitly mentioned by Jesus in what he taught. So this is going in the direction that you’re suggesting — that there’s something fundamental about what marriage is and what the partners are to bring to marriage that suggests that when we think about the fundamental abuse, not just spousal abuse but the abuse of the marriage that that represents, that that does represent in some sense as a broken vow and that God’s heart in that situation wouldn’t be for the person to remain in a situation in which they are personally at risk.
Debby Wade: Right.
Gary Barnes: Yeah.
Darrell Bock: Well this has been a difficult topic to cover and it’s an important topic. I want to give you all each a chance to say kind of a final word so Gary, how would you?
Gary Barnes: I would say a couple of things. This is a thing that grows with secrecy and so it’s a problem that we’re prone to not be aware of or to think about. This is really worthy of the church’s attention.
The other thing is that this is not limited to a certain category of people. This is across all categories, rich, poor, whatever your background is. This is across all categories.
And the third thing that I would want to say for the church is that this is also within the redemptive work of God, that change can happen. And it’s a very marvelous, wonderful thing to see the power of God’s grace actually changing this kind of a problem. This is not just like a willpower behavior management plan. This is like a total transformation plan and that’s what God does in our lives. And so we need to always move with that kind of hope.
Barnes’ exhortation to “always move with that kind of hope” will bind the sensitive conscience of the victim to make her deeply fearful of divorcing her abuser, just in case God will turn yet around her husband’s heart.
Barnes says how marvelous it is to see ‘the power of God’s grace actually changing this problem’, but again, he does not name WHO God is changing. God is changing ‘the problem’ — what an antiseptic, aloof, non-explicit expression! The word ‘problem’ does not name anyone: it’s just an abstract, mutualizing word. Does Mr Barnes mean that God marvelously changing the abuser? the victim? or both of them? Cases where the abuser truly reforms are exceedingly rare. I suspect that none of these counselors have ever seen such a miracle, but are just giving lip service to it. More likely, what they have seen are cases where the abuser made some degree of change but not out-and-out reformation, and the victim was persuaded that it was safe to be reconciled. We know of cases like that, but the proof of the pudding is only found in the long term. And there is always the possibility that the survivor is still partly in the fog.
We are not saying it never happens, but we think is very rare. For example, I know of three cases where a male abuser seems to have truly reformed. I am aware of many more cases where the abuser seemed to reform and the marriage reconciled for some time, they even might have started a Domestic Abuse ministry together, but in the end the cracks start showing and it become pretty evident that the man’s entitlement mindset has not really changed. And in the (much less common) cases where the abuser is female, we have not heard of any examples of true reformation.
Dr George K Simon is forensic psychologist who understands a lot about the likelihood of abusers ever changing. We highly recommend his books, but for a taster here are two of his web articles:
Disturbed Characters — Can They Change?
Can Character Disorders Hit Bottom — Do They Ever Change?
Darrell Bock: And it will be an intensive exercise in many cases. It will involve a lot of investment and a lot of people to encourage and to support in such a way that opens the door for God to work and change people.
I have already dealt (here and here) with the notion that abusers need *encouragement and support* and *people to come alongside them*. The kind of support (more properly called confrontation, education, limit setting and enforcement of consequences) that abusers need is from experts like Dr George Simon, or from people who are well trained in running Behavior Change Programs for Abusers (aka Batterer’s Programs). It is very rare to find a Christian professionals with that kind of training, but pastors and church leaders can and should be delivering biblical discipline for abusers. How rarely we hear of that being done!
Also, ‘for God to work and change people’ is a mutualizing expression:— ‘people’ is plural, so Bock is talking about both spouses needing to change.
Debby Wade: Well certainly I would say to the church let’s make this a topic that we bring to the table and we’re willing to talk about. And to those who are listening that may question are they in abusive situation, they may be saying, well I’ve never been hit so I don’t know if I could call it physical abuse, but yet they have many things in their home that are damaged or pets that are hurt. So property and pet abuse is also considered part of domestic abuse. Then certainly there can be the sexual abuse, the physical and or the emotional.
To give first mention to property damage, sexual abuse and pet abuse so late in the video is very wrong. A robust definition of abuse — one that covered property damage, sexual abuse, pet abuse, financial abuse, social abuse, spiritual abuse, legal abuse, abuse of the children and abuse via the children — should have been given at the start of each of these videos. Some victims may not have made it this far into the video, and those who made it this far may be deeply triggered by all that has been said.
We believe that in any educational program about marriage or domestic abuse, a good definition of abuse and the range of things it covers needs to be stated early. The fact that these counselors do not know this shows how incompetent they are. It’s a basic failure in duty of care.
Wade: But if one feels that they are in a controlling and abusive situation to reach out to someone to start with, first a good friend or a person on staff in a church that they trust, or calling out to a counselor or a crisis line. Just start somewhere to see where they can get some help.
Yes, we do encourage victims to reach out for help. But I think these DTS folk have a Pollyanna view of the church, the counseling scene and the justice systems of secular society. They seem to be pretty clueless about how many ill-trained, ill-informed, prejudiced and even corrupt people are out there providing *help* to victims of abuse who are seeking help.
Wade: And we’ve talked about possibility of reconciliation or when it doesn’t happen. There’s five words that I use a lot with clients whether I’m working with them individually and or with couples, what I see that God is able to do and we’ve got history of it and biblical accounts where he does it over and over again and he can in our lives: that he rebuilds, he reclaims, he redeems, he restores and he resurrects. And trusting how he can do that regardless of our situation, that those are four things that he’s committed to working on in our lives.
It’s great that Wade mentions the possibility of the marriage NOT being reconciled. But again, we can’t rest in our little sigh of relief for long, because then comes this whole emphasis on how God redeems, rebuilds, reclaims, restores, resurrects. Yes; God can do those things; but wicked people choose to make a habit of wrongdoing and avoiding responsibility. Rarely, very rarely in Scripture do we see this kind of person change. We all know that when a person repents (a much overlooked R word!) and trusts in Christ for salvation — is genuinely born again, regenerated by the Spirit of God and given a new heart — they change. But other than this, we don’t see abusive wicked evil people changing. The old saw-horse of how God redeems and restores is an over-applied doctrine in domestic abuse, it’s used way too often to coerce victims into a drudgery of hopefulness in which they can lose years, decades, of their lives.
Here is a little conversation between Ellie and Jeff Crippen that relates to this part of the video:
I absolutely hate that “redeem” business. CCEF overuses it so badly it is pathetic. Redeeming marriage. Redeeming anger. Redeeming, whatever. Well let’s just hold on a minute — Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. We aren’t. He effected redemption, not me. So you get this whole totally unbiblical model of “redeeming the abuser” like somehow these pastor/counselors think they are the Son of God or something. I really don’t think I am overstating the case here.
To be fair to DTS, I didn’t get the sense that they were saying THEY could redeem anyone, but that we shouldn’t forget that Christ can redeem. That’s the thing they don’t get, that victims are sitting in the pews next to their abusers and hoping hoping hoping that THIS will be the Sunday that the sermon reaches him, that they won’t have to call 911, that in one 30 minute sermon this fraud sitting next to her will walk an aisle and come back to that pew a changed man and they can live happily ever after.
20+ years of Sundays for me. 20+ years.
In the end I really think that people like this do in fact believe that WE can redeem the abuser. It sounds like all of this faith in Christ, but the fact is that the Bible never presents a scenario such as the one these kinds of people do. People who reject Christ and persist in unrepentant wickedness are called evil in the Bible. Scripture does not tell us to spend decades waiting for them to repent and somehow through all of our long-suffering we can pull the thing off. What we are told to do is put such people out of our midst and separate from them, announcing to all what they are. So I do believe that this school of thought does in fact end up creating a false, man-made tradition about this “redemption.”
[back to the video transcript:]
Darrell Bock: One other thought has come to me. What advice would you give to someone who hears from someone being abused? I suspect many of us may know people who find themselves in the situation and they’re kinda saying, okay, should I just be an ear? or is there more left to do?
Gary Barnes: You need to be an advocate, not just an ear. Because this person is isolated and needs support and they need very much to have somebody be an advocate for them.
Yes, a listening ear is good — so long as they don’t subtly blame the victim and subtly excuse the perpetrator — but a listening ear who is an advocate as well, is far better. However, Mr Barnes, I would not go to you for either a listening ear or an advocate.
Darrell Bock: And so that will mean going to bat for them. What do you do with the confidentiality that a person may ask you to have about this? I could see getting boxed in.
Gary Barnes: Confidentiality is always limited with the safety guideline. So if you’re ever concerned about somebody being a danger to themself or others, see then that’s a limit to confidentiality.
That is true. However, if you are a helper there is a vital thing you need to know which Barnes failed to mention: the danger of revealing to the perpetrator the secrets that the victim has disclosed to you. Rule of thumb: Do not tell the perpetrator or any of his allies (or people who he may recruit as allies) what the victim has disclosed to you, unless the victim has given her express permission. If in doubt or if you have concerns about her safety, seek advice from the Domestic Violence Hotline. Safety for the victim and children takes priority, always. Too many victims have been betrayed by pastors or counselors who foolishly go and confront the abuser without the victim’s fully informed consent. Or worse still, they ‘take the abuser out to lunch for a friendly chat’. Safety planning is a whole big topic which these people at DTS scarcely mentioned. Safety planning can be done by professional domestic violence workers in conjunction with the victim, but there are also many good safety plans on the web. See our Resources page on Safety Planning.
Debby Wade: And I think sometime, with that listening ear we may hear something and we’re not certain what they were telling us, we have concern or question. Be willing to go back to that person and say “You know, the other day when we were talking you mentioned this. And I just really wanted to come back and see are you okay?” Because I think sometime we will hear something and maybe shy away from it ‘cause we’re either scared to get involved or we think, “Oh I don’t want to think that.” We semi-deny it.
This is good.
Darrell Bock: Or the other end of the spectrum might be well I don’t want to be a gossip. I don’t want to share something that really shouldn’t be shared.
Debby Wade: Right.
The panel should at least briefly have talked about how to distinguish gossip from wise and caring disclosure, and how the ‘no-gossip’ rule is often used to silence victims.
Debby Wade: But to come back to that person and say, “Are you okay? And if you’re not, how can I help?”
Amen! A gentle, encouraging, open-ended question or expression of concern for her wellbeing, rephrased or repeated on different occasions, can be very helpful to victims.
Darrell Bock: Well I want to thank y’all for coming in and discussing this and we appreciate your joining us at the table today over a very, very serious topic, spousal abuse, not just domestic violence but spousal abuse and we hope this has been helpful to you as you think your way through what is something that often we don’t talk about but we’ve brought it here because we think it’s very, very important to talk about.
He was right to use the term ‘abuse’ rather than (or in conjunction with) the more restrictive word ‘violence’.
I shall end with a final quote from Jeff Crippen:
The DTS panel never even mentioned church discipline. They talk and talk about trusting God, God can redeem anyone, being patient, trying separation that is structured, etc., . . . but where is there any indication that they realize that here is a guy who has been wickedly abusing his wife for a long time, who claims to be a Christian — where is their outrage and their resolve to announce his evil to the church and put him out of their midst, handing him over to Satan for his destruction (1 Cor. 5-6, 9-13; Eph. 5:11)? These people have embraced a completely unbiblical doctrine of man and of sin.
What Does The Bible Say about Divorce and Redemption in Cases of Spousal Abuse? is Part Two of the Dallas Theological Seminary video podcast series on domestic abuse. DTS created the series as a basic introduction to the larger topic of domestic abuse for students and alumni, as well any one else who might find it useful. [Here is my critique of Part One of the podcast series.]
The video is a very mixed bag. Some things the presenters say are good; some things are terrible. A mixture of good and bad is what we quite often find in Christian teaching about domestic abuse. It is our experience that when people get it partly wrong, they hurt and confuse victims, and they unwittingly condone and enable abusers — and so the injustice continues.
Dallas Theological Seminary is not alone in getting it partly right and partly wrong. I could have done a similar review of material produced by CCEF, and I may do so some day. My general points in this review might apply to many seminaries and many Christian counseling educational organizations. (Hint #1: if the cap fits — wear it! Hint #2: if your organization wants to avoid being critiqued on this blog, you might like to learn some lessons from this post and overhaul how you are talking about domestic abuse.)
The discussion panel on this video are the same as part one:
Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement;
Gary Barnes, a Professor in the Biblical Counseling Program at DTS who also has a part-time private practitice as a licencsed psychologist specializing in marriage and family;
Debby Wade, a marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor. She has a private practice (Authentic Christian Therapeutic Solutions) where she specializes in working with intimacy issues and couples, and marital work.
The video is titled “What Does The Bible Say about Divorce and Redemption in Cases of Spousal Abuse?” but I think it should have been titled “What Does Dallas Theological Seminary Say about Divorce and Redemption in Cases of Spousal Abuse?”
My method for this review is as follows:
- I will quote from the transcript and make comments as I go.
- I will give bold font to the good things the panel say, things which will help victims.
- I will underline the things the panel say that I consider bad, unwise, triggering or dangerous for victims.
- My quotes will be in the order they occur in the video, but I will not use ellipses [. . . ] as that would be too distracting to the format.
- I will not quote all of the transcript as it is quite long; but I will do my best not to misrepresent what the panelists say.
- My comments will be given in purple.
So, grab a cuppa. This is a long post but you have all weekend to read it :)
Gary Barnes: The calling for marriage does not mean to put yourself in harm’s way in marriage. So yes, God hates divorce but he also hates violence. He hates abuse. He hates control for self-serving purposes. And so if a person is ever at risk in their sense of safety in their own home then they need to have an option from that. Like we said, it could be a friend, could be a local shelter.
The saying ‘”God hates divorce” ought to be eliminated. What we should be saying instead is: “God hates treacherous divorce, but He does not hate disciplinary divorce.” (for argumentation, see this post and my book Not Under Bondage which you will find in our sidebar to the right.)
Darrell Bock: Now what’s an indicator that space may be necessary? Is it the sense of not being safe in the home? Is it the level, the threat level becoming high enough that really, really is an indication that there just needs to be a cooling off?
The notion that abuse will be stopped or resolved by ‘a cooling off period’ is a wrong-headed notion. Abuse does not stop just because you let the abuser cool off. Despite the appearance that some abusers give that they are overheated and lose control, abusers are typically very much in control of their actions and they exercise abuse in all seasons: whether they are hot or cold or warm or tepid.
Gary Barnes: Well obviously any, any physical harm is — okay, this is not safe, this is not appropriate. Just like the woman on the interview spoke of: If anybody else in my life was doing to me what my spouse was doing to me, would I allow that? Would that be okay? And so I think that’s a good guideline to ask yourself. But don’t just limit it to the physical. Think in terms of being controlled, whether it’s with the use of words, whether it’s a character assassinations or even ‘the look’. So there’s a look that we all have that we give to someone when we are maybe angry or upset or frustrated with somebody. But that’s not the same as a look of I’m going to control you and if you don’t do what I’m expecting you to do, things are going to get bad for you.
[The panel watch a segment of a video showing a survivor talking about how her church sent her and her young child back to a violent man.]
Darrell Bock: Okay now that pretty poignantly poses the dilemma. I go and share with someone in the hopes of getting help and instead what I get is resistance. I guess the natural question is what do you do then? You’ve made your effort to release the secret and it has flopped. Now what do you do?
Gary Barnes: You go up the chain. You hit a bad spot on the chain, don’t give up, don’t quit – and this is where moving outside your circle sometimes may become necessary because some people live in a circle that’s so tight that there literally may be one place to go – you may only have one pitch. This is where [you need to pursue] the support groups that exist.
Yes, when a victim has sought help and been knocked back or judged, the advice to persevere — to go up the chain — is helpful. But Barnes fails to recognize that ‘up the chain’ there may only be more of the same or worse! And he totally fails to denounce the Christians who are disbelieving and being judgmental to victims and sending them back into harm’s way. He does not show any outrage about the church’s flabby response to domestic abuse.
Furthermore, he subtly blames victims when he talks about ‘some people live in a circle that is so tight’. Hello? Very often the reason that circle is so tight is because the abusers make it so! There is no attribution of blame to the abuser here: the syntax Barnes employs makes abusers and controlling churches utterly invisible: the subject of the verb ‘live’ is ‘some people’— such a vague expression — victims will feel blamed by it, but abusers and controlling churches get off scot free because they not named specifically as the ones keeping those tight circles tight. This kind of linguistic tactic which makes the perpetrators invisible is far too often employed when talking about abuse.
Debby Wade: I think certainly if you’re not being heard, be willing to find someone that will hear you. And I know that’s so easy for us to say that this is what they need to do when they’ve been so squelched and so broken that they feel like if somebody doesn’t hear me that these people that I think that I can trust don’t hear me, their fear is that nobody will hear them. So I would give that encouragement.
This was good because it honored how squelched and broken victims often feel, and how hard it is to reach out for help when you fear people will disbelieve and reject you. But to tell the victims to ‘be willing to find someone that will hear you’ puts the burden on the victims. Hem hem: victims ARE willing to find someone who will hear them —that’s why they reach out for help! But the people who will hear them and believe them are very few and far between. Wade tells the victim to be willing to find someone who will hear her. Once again, the victim is told what to do. Told how to feel and think. Can I say we are sick of this? What about telling the church and the bystanders what to do? What about dressing down all the flaccid Christians who think they get it but they don’t have a clue? What about rousing the church to outrage about the injustice that victims of abuse are being dealt?
Darrell Bock: sometimes isn’t it true that what happens to a victim is that they tend to blame themselves for the situation that they’re in and so all that does is reinforce the attitude that they have that well maybe this really is bad but maybe I am really a cause.
He’s right that victims tend to blame themselves. But he implies that the victims themselves are at fault for this. Victim: you are reinforcing your attitude that you are the cause of the problem! I’m telling you, victim, you need to stop doing this! Again, this evacuates the abuser from the picture: he’s once again conveniently invisible! FACT: it is the abuser who is blaming the victim — brainwashing her to believe that she is the one at fault. This needs to be stated as plainly as the nose on your face, so that victims do not cop the blame for blaming themselves. If that sounds circuitous, imagine the circles victims are going through: round and round in this crazy-making labyrinthine maze where the abuser blames them and counselors and ‘c’hristian experts blame them too. . .
Gary Barnes: All the more reason to get a reality check from someone outside that can help you with that way of thinking.
Yes; but I doubt that these DTS counselors will give you a reality check. Instead, they will tangle you up in crazy-making double messages by encouraging you one minute, and blaming you the next. Flee, dear victims, from this toxic miasma!
Darrell Bock: Now, let’s talk about churches that are put in this situation, particularly churches that might have a very strong stand on divorce. This is a hard move for churches to make because the reality is if you do advise a separation, oftentimes that is the first step towards a divorce. I think the statistics are there to say that that’s often what does happen, that oftentimes you don’t – you aren’t able to pull it back together. So you’ve got that risk and sometimes you’re faced with two bad choices and the judgment to make is which choice is the greater good or which choice by opting not to act leads you in the worse situation. Is that a way to think about this?
It is wrong to say that separation is often the first step towards divorce. Abuse is the first step towards divorce. Portraying separation as the first step to divorce is another way of subtly laying blame on victims who make the choice to separate, and it also calls into question any church that advises or condones that separation. Bottom line: the victim would not be separating if the abuser did not abuse.
Bock is clearly stuck on the notion that divorce is always bad. It has to be bad. It can never be good. FACT: divorce is often the very best thing in domestic abuse, especially if post-divorce the kids don’t have to see the abuser any more, or have very restricted contact with him. Then the non-abusive parent can usually do a good job of raising the kids without the awful revolving door of the kids being with the abuser, having their minds (and sometimes bodies) molested, and then coming back to the protective parent who tries to help the kids recover from the trauma and fearful confusion, only to have to send the kids back to the abuser again by order of the Family Court. It is no fun, believe me. Life is constant crisis and bandaid jobs, till contact with the abuser ends.
Barnes: You know I think of two things in response to that. Number one is we have to change our thinking about how God thinks about things because we are just thinking about the way we think instead of the way God thinks. So if I’m thinking the ultimate thing here is divorce. That’s not how God’s thinking.
I agree that most people have to change their thinking because they’re just running on their own ill-formed ideas about divorce. The victim’s heart might leap with hope, hearing these words from Barnes. . . but look at what comes next:
Barnes: Yes, God hates divorce. That’s not his first choice. God’s made allowances for it out of the hardness of hearts.
This is where Ellie and the rest of our readers will have to start madly tapping to cope with the trigger. Mr Barnes and all who echo him, please hear this:
God does not hate all divorce. He only hates treacherous divorce. He approves of divorce for abuse.
Furthermore, God did not “make allowances for divorce out of the hardness of hearts”. Jesus’ commentary on that Mosaic law is quite gender specific: it was the MEN’s hardness of heart that God was targeting in that law. He wrote the law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 because some men were so hard hearted that they were dumping their wives, then marrying them again after the wives had been been in and out of another marriage. This law was to deal with a callous man who dumped his wife — effectively freeing her to marry other man — but then the first husband, without any conscience, wanted to take the wife back after the wife’s second marriage had terminated. The law was given to prohibit men treating their wives as disposable and re-purchasable chattels. Barnes is like so many who pontificate on this passage: they ignore the gender specifics and thus they make the evil man invisible.
Barnes: One person can’t do the work for two people to make a marriage work and if safety and sanctity of life is at risk, that’s a greater concern than divorce. And so I think we have to kind of say yes, we’re first and foremost for the marriage but we’re first and foremost for things that are even greater to the heart of God than that.
One person can’t do the work for two people to make a marriage work — Amen to that statement! And we heartily endorse the view that safety and sanctity of life are more important that keeping a marriage together. The individual’s health and safety are definitely more important than the institution of marriage.
But the comfort and relief victims feel from those blessed words is punched out of them in the very next second with a classic crazy-making double message: “We are first and foremost for X’ and “We are first and foremost for Y.” Mr Barnes, I think you need to go back to class and learn clear thinking skills.
Barnes’ delivery is reminiscent of the abuser’s Jekyll and Hyde tactics: Be nice for moment so she lets her guard down, then stab her again but make the stab so confusing that she goes away wondering if she is going crazy because she can’t make sense of what you are saying. . . Who is this man? the nice guy? or the cruel one? . . . She thinks she must be wrong for feeling hurt and confused — he said something so nice! it was like a drop of water in the desert!
Barnes: The other thing that I think the church could really do well on is to think in terms of the long term. This is a long-term need and if we can just make space for this to be addressed adequately, let’s not just say either you go back into the home and just put up with it or else you get divorce. You could have a long-term structured separation. See, when you look at the statistics on separations that lead to divorce, those are unstructured separations, with the right kinda supports around and each person and sometimes that separation might need to be where it’s unknown where the victim is, just for their protection.
This time the bad statement comes first and the good statement comes second.
The bad statement is bad because it will most likely set the victim up for a long haul of more trying by holding out the carrot of hope, and because it implicitly pressures the victim to go along with this idea of a ‘structured separation’. We know full well from so many examples how rarely this works, how pompously and naively the church often thinks it is competent to structure this separation, and how easy it is for abusers to feign progress towards reformation so that the plan can be dragged out, and all the counselors and bystanders preen themselves on the *progress* that is being made. They love to cite the success stories they’ve been part of, the marriages they’ve seen *redeemed*, but where are they in reality? [my asterisks represent fairy dust]
The mention of the victim’s address being kept secret from the perpetator is a good one. At least that indicates that Barnes has some understanding of the risks of post-separation abuse and violence.
Darrell Bock: So they aren’t chased down and the control kicks in.
Mr Bock, please hear this: Your sentence makes the abuser invisible. Please permit me to remind you of some basic grammar:— An active verb such as “kicks” requires a noun as the agent doing the acting. In your sentence, you make it sound like ‘control’ is doing the kicking. That means the abuser is not there, not choosing, not an agent. Your syntax covertly implies that the abuser is somehow the passive recipient of the agent called ‘control’ — the control just kicked in and he couldn’t help himself!
The correct way to say it would have been something like this: “So they can’t be chased down by the abuser who still wants to exert control and wants to take vengeance on the victim for having escaped the control.”
Gary Barnes: I worked with one couple where that structured separation occurred over a two year time period and they actually were reconciled but it took that much time with each of them going through separate individual steps and stages before they could begin to have even structured contact while they were still separated. So that’s – we don’t have to just think of those two options (1) well you either have to go back in the house so go back in, or (2) divorce — and we don’t want you to divorce so just stick in the house and stick it out.
Darrell Bock: you’re talking about separation where the support of the church and the community at large is important, because they can help really working with both partners in one way or another to try and take the time that’s necessary to let things settle down and also get a handle on what’s going on and then begin the process of trying to rebuild what’s been damaged.
‘Let things settle down’ – I shall tell you what will happen when this is the approach that churches use. Abusers will feign repentance and work on recruiting allies, and victims will have second thoughts and starting wondering . . . “Was it really that bad? Maybe I’m too sensitive. :( Calling it ‘abuse’ seems fairly harsh! What if it’s not abuse? Maybe he really wants to change! What if I’m supposed to lead him to the Lord?” e.t.c.e.t.e.r.a.
‘Trying to rebuild what’s been damaged’ is bad terminology. It is yet another statement where the abuser’s responsibility is elided, so it could be taken to imply that the problem is a mutual problem, the responsibility of both parties — they wrecked it; they have to rebuild it — while the church stands round and tells them what to do. Supportively, of course! Cue Debby Wade:
Debby Wade: And I think certainly for the men — for the men in churches to come around and support the abuser in a way of making sure that he is going to be on a redemptive path and that he is going to be willing to seek out healing and to look at the internal issues. You know where’s the anger, where’s the fear, what’s the need of control about? And that you know believers come alongside him and walk with him and be willing to confront what is not okay behavior. What’s not appropriate behavior for a spouse?
Excuse me, can you please show me all these churches where the men are able to recognize and abuser’s lies and resist an abuser’s invitations to sympathize with him and collude with victim-blaming narratives? Can you please show me an abuser who is willingly transparent (not pretend transparency and fake repentance done with a hidden agenda) about his not-okay behaviors, let alone his not-okay attitudes? This is utter foolishness to think that most men in churches are clued up enough to call the abusers on their games and lies.
Wade: So that the reconciliation plan is one for both of them and the healing would have to take place for both of them. And then, we always hear ‘hurting people hurt people’, so part of it I would think would also be for the abuser to be willing to look at what is the trauma or the pain in the past that he may be living in, still living with, that causes him to need that kind of control and be abusive.
AARGH! I dealt with this horrible notion in my critique of Part One of this podcast series.
Let me give you Jeff Crippen here. He says it more concisely than I usually do :)
DTS and all those kinds of counselors are MINIMIZING and EXCUSING the abuse when they attribute it to the poor, poor fellow suffering from trauma and pain. Doesn’t it seem to you that if you have been hurt in the past the right way of responding to that would be to develop an active conscience so you do not hurt others? But abusers have no conscience. And when you are the target of an abuser, the abuse is still harming you whether the abuser is insecure, or was molested as a child, or whatever. Lots of other people suffer those traumas and yet they do not abuse.
Darrell Bock: Now here comes a strange question. Should the spouses seek the same counselor or different counselors or does it depend? It seems to me that the choice of support here is also important in how it works because sometimes I think you get two different counselors, sometimes you get in a situation where it’s like the two lawyers in a legal case where you got the counselor supporting one person and the other counselor advocating for another and I’m not sure that’s the healthiest situation. So how do you sort out the best way to pursue the counseling?
Debby Wade: I would recommend two different counselors and a consent of release being signed by both parties for both counselors so that the communication can be between the counselors on staying on the same page, being able to validate what change is taking place. And then what I’ve done in cases like this periodically then the two counselors and the two parties, we all meet together and so that we’re working when we’re dealing with individual issues we’re dealing with their healing individually and then we come together, the four of us come together to work on the marital issues and what really has to be changed. Then both parties feel they have an advocate in the room and they have someone who’s there for them personally, but believe that both are for reconciliation. And whether that reconciliation means for restoration of the marriage, or whether it means that they’re reconciled that if it ends up in divorce it’s without bitterness and pursue (continue) abuse.
Two different counselors is good, and the consent of release is also a good idea, so long as both counselor are totally prioritizing the safety of the victim, and believing her. For example, the abuser may be telling his counselor that he is feeling deep sorrow for how he hurt his ex/separated partner, and is abiding by her requests to not contact her or put any pressure on her. But the victim is reporting that the abuser is frequently texting her, recruiting allies in the church to get them to pressure her to early reconciliation, and telling the children lies and distorted half-truths about her. Her reports need to be believed. Otherwise the abuser’s counselor will get the wool pulled over his or her eyes. The bottom line is, the abuser is the one who had been abusing, and his accounts are to be heard with judicious suspicion. Whereas the victim is the one who has been abused, and her accounts are to be heard with readiness to believe her, and in fact a readiness to believe that she will tell you even more about the abuser’s wicked conduct as she comes out of the fog and starts reassembling her memories.
But of course, if the counselors don’t get this, they are likely to be hoodwinked by the abuser and start distrusting the victim. And the victim will sense their distrust and will stop disclosing any more details about the abuse; in fact, her whole process of coming out of the fog is likely to be stymied because she will start doubting her perceptions and memories again and the fog will roll back in.
It’s good that Debby Wade accepts that some cases will end in divorce. But she describes a good outcome in such cases as ‘they’re reconciled that if it ends up in divorce it’s without bitterness and pursue (continue) abuse.’ This is yet another instance of eliding the fault of the abuser and mutualizing the problem so that both parties are depicted as being at fault, both are depicted as abusers. Wade’s language suggests she sees the victim as someone who might pursue or continue abuse after the divorce. Hello? She’s lumping the victim in with the abuser as equally at fault and equally likely to commit post-separation abuse.
Darrell Bock: It seems to me that’s an interesting situation because I can see where initially you might go to one counselor because that’s the person you know. But then the responsibility of the counselor in that situation is to recommend “You know, this is really better if each of you has your own person that you’re seeing.” Is that often what happens?
Gary Barnes: And it depends on where the problem is on the continuum. And there’s some cases where like what you were just describing, there’s so much that would have to happen before that could ever happen where people are coming together, maybe a year’s worth of work even. But the collaborative structured model would be the ideal thing and it may be the case that a lot of individual work would have to happen first before that joint work could happen.
Hmm, I’d like to know what kind of individual work these DTS counselors would envisage for the victim. From what they’ve shown so far, I am not confident they would be competent to help her with the trauma symptoms she might have. Nor am I confident that, without putting their foot in it, they would be able to honor and praise her for how she has responded to the abuse by seeking to protect and preserve her and her children’s dignity, personhood, and integrity despite the undermining from the abuser and the ignorant and unhelpful responses from the church and society at large.
This critique will be continued in our first post next week.
At the I Will Stand page on Facebook there is a post which all parents who have to hand their kids to abusers will identify with. Why do they have to do this? Because of Family Court Orders. AARGH!
Apologies for the double postings today. I know . . . I don’t always stick to our policy. But this one is so good I thought our readers all would like to have the heads up.
We encourage you to go to the above link on FB. But for those who don’t use FB, here is the text:
This is not the Easter message I wanted to write today. But life isn’t always about crosses planted dramatically in your yard, lilies garnishing the altar with their triumphant happy songs, white splashing over everything and baskets full of chocolaty grass.
This Easter morning, I had to give my two beautiful children to our abuser. This Easter morning, my heart can not sing. Christ is risen, and I pray for His strength to get through church today. This Easter morning, I just have to get through it, as I face the reality of my daughter, sobbing in her bed last night, clinging to me and telling me she doesn’t want to go to daddy’s and my son who just keeps repeating he wants to stay with me and his step dad. This Easter morning, I have to somehow reconcile the joy that should be in this day, with the stinging pain that permeates it for me.
There are so many smiling faces around me in church today and I just want to scream and cry, why? Why do I have to rip my little ones from me every week, and give them to the man I trust least in this world. The man that plays with their minds with his narcissistic exploits all around them, not thinking about them, unless it looks good or fits in with HIM. The man who ripped me to shreds, slowly, over many years and left my heart for dead. The man that does the same daily, to the little ones God gave me to love and PROTECT. And I can’t. I can’t. Oh Lord help me, I can’t. The law is blind and can not see his his filthy lies hiding under a plastic charm. The law forces me to expose them to his poison, over and over again, and this is absolute torture to a mommy heart and soul.
This Easter is “his” Easter, as if he deserves it simply because he donated half of their DNA. He never cared for them much. He didn’t even know their doctor’s name until we divorced and he called me because he had to take one of them in on one of his custody days. He didn’t even originally want my daughter, believing her existence threatened my son’s place in the family. He finds my son a failure, wishing he had a son who would be more outdoors and for heavens sake, not so emotional. As I left the house during the divorce, he said, “I need you to help me with son. He is so much like you. I can’t understand him. He is so emotional.” As if that’s a bad thing.
There is nothing I can do but choke back the pain and guilt that I feel in knowing what they face, as they walk into that door and he drops the mask he was wearing to look good for other people. He slips and slides through social roles like jello but when they are alone and no one hears, he allows the ugliness through. The poison slowly leaks into their hearts, so slowly that they can’t even understand what is happening. They just feel bad and don’t know why. Something is wrong, but what? He helps them believe it’s because of them. Attack and blame them for inciting him to attack.
This Easter, all I can do is beg the God who didn’t allow His son to stay dead, to extend just a fraction of that measure of protection and love to my kids. Protect their hearts. Guard their souls. Please God. The pain you felt on that cross…just a little of that pain that cut into you so deeply that day, was the tortured cry of my heart, for my kids.
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9)
Sometimes we Christians end up being superstitious and calling it faith. What I mean is (and I have done it too) we try to read the “tea leaves” of circumstances and thereby sort out what God is doing. “Ok, now I see what God’s purpose is here.” But that confidence vaporizes the next day when things take an entirely different, and usually discouraging, direction. “All of these trials I have been through – God has been using them to teach me this specific lesson. Now I see it.” But then the next custody hearing comes up and your abuser prevails. You resolve to follow and obey Christ. But you are the one in poverty while your abuser prospers.
Superstition can sneak up on us and parade as faith. It isn’t. “I am just patiently waiting for the Lord to show me…and then I will…”. That’s the thinking. Usually by “show me” we mean some sign, some happening or observable event, some word spoken by someone that we take to be God directing us. Let me suggest once more that this can easily be superstition, and not faith. Faith, remember, is defined in Scripture this way:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)
The object of faith is the Lord and His revealed Word, not circumstances or events. Superstition, even with the Lord’s name attached to it, is not faith. It is the notion that the creation around us and the creatures in that creation emanate “signs” to us that we can read and make some sense of, communicating to us what God’s plan is. The thing will inevitably leave you disappointed. Remember Job’s friends? They claimed to be able to interpret Job’s circumstances and from their observations discern what God was doing in Job’s life. They were wrong.
I am thinking these days more about the purpose of Ecclesiastes being in the Bible. Basically it says this:
Nothing in this life makes sense and we will go nuts if we try to discern God’s plan from events and circumstance. In the end we walk by faith not by sight. Sight is what will make us stumble.
Many times I have seen abuse victims, in the midst of great suffering, refuse to take action that really appeared to be very obviously wise. They were free to do it. God’s Word gave them that freedom. Godly people affirmed that taking such a step would be wise. Civil officials agreed, as did the civil law. But they didn’t take that step. They remained in the place they were in. Why? They said they were waiting for the Lord to direct them specifically and definitely. They were, you see, caught up in superstition and confusing it with faith. What they were waiting for was some course of events, some happening, some word or statement that they would see as a divine direction specifically for them. In their thinking, they dare not take any action or they would lose God’s blessing and perhaps even incur His wrath. But that is superstition, not biblical faith.
The church that I have pastored for many years has undergone much suffering. As we have endured various trials, we have often said to one another: “Ok, the Lord has tried and tested us. He has shown us sin and brought us to repent of it. Now that He has done this, He is going to start bringing new people here to join us. Genuine Christians who love Christ. It’s gonna be a bright, sunshiny day.” But then it doesn’t happen. The reality is, it may never happen. Sometimes in the history of the church, Christ’s people have done the right thing according to God’s Word and their church eventually came to naught. It isn’t always sin that closes down a church, you see. Sometimes following Christ faithfully in a world that hates Christ ends with an empty building dilapidating over the years. No, that doesn’t make sense does it? And that is the very message of Ecclesiastes.
Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? (Ecc 3:16-22)
Superstition will try and try to make sense out of the events of this life. It will claim to tell us what God’s plan and purpose is in the specifics of our lives. But it will fail. It is a dead end. Superstition disappoints. Superstition paralyzes. Rather, it is faith we must embrace, and the object of genuine faith is unseen. Faith is trust in God’s Word simply because God has spoken it.
Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever!
He who deigned for me to die,
Lives, the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.
Trust Christ. Believe His Word as revealed to us in Scripture. Use wisdom, do what you believe is right application of that Word, and be assured you have God’s blessing even when your circumstances make it look like you do not. In the end, the outcome is in the Lord’s hands. In the end, whenever that day comes, the Christian’s life will turn out to be good, very, very good. How do I know? Because God has indeed given us a sign – the sign of Jonah:
But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mat 12:39-40)
Our story has a happy ending. The storyline gets really, really confusing quite often. But the Lord has told us how it is all going to turn out, and He has given us assurance by means of the empty tomb. Christ is risen. And because He is risen, so shall we rise. This is faith, not superstition.
Jesus Lives (Sung by Erin Hill)
Every Good Friday our church here in Tillamook holds a special service in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross. We have followed exactly the same format for many years now, ending with everyone departing the sanctuary in silence as a reminder of the grief of that “good” day. Of course it was good in the sense that the work was finished. Christ atoned for our sins and the power of death was taken from the devil. The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2:14-15)
For all who are in Christ, the devil no longer holds power. Christ perfectly met the demands of God’s holy law in His perfect life and in His perfect sacrifice for us. Thus, the devil no longer has any basis to accuse us and demand our death. We have died to the law in Christ. For us, that Friday was very, very good. Don’t let the representatives of the devil bluff you. If by faith alone in Christ alone you are justified before God, then that justification is full and complete. Christ is our righteousness, not our own performance. It has long been the devil’s tactic to make Christ’s people doubt this and thereby bring us back into a bondage that Satan has no right to possess over us. Don’t fall for it. Satan is the father of lies and a murderer and destroyer right from the beginning. Expect the same kind of lies from his ambassadors, recognize them for what they are, and set your eyes on Christ.
O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down;
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss ’til now was Thine;
Yet though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
‘Twas mine the dread transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour,
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Oh, look on me with favor;
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me Thine forever;
And, should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee.
Be near when I am dying,
Oh, show Thy cross to me;
And for my succor flying,
Come, Lord, to set me free:
These eyes new faith receiving,
From Thee shall not remove,
For he who dies believing
Dies safely thro’ Thy love.
PAS, or Parental Alienation Syndrome, refers to the poisoning of children’s minds by one parent (usually the mother), against the other (usually the father). The so-called “cure” is to take the children away from the parent who is “poisoning” them and place them with the other parent. Richard Gardner, a known pedophile apologist came up with this theory from his own research with his clients in 1985, while working to defend abusers in court who were at risk of losing access to their children to protective parents. Gardner self-published his work and had no scientific basis for his PAS theory. But it’s still successfully used today, by many lawyers, to underhandedly win custody for abusive men.
The National District Attorneys Association says that, “PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children.”
Yet many courts still allow it and many abusers know it.
The twisted part to all this, is that alienation actually does exist. Parents do attempt to turn their kids against the other parent. But not the way Gardner suggests. It’s usually the abuser who does the actual alienation, all while they are busy taking the protective parent to court and using PAS as a magic bullet to win more custody of the kids.
Here is how it often seems to work:
When the kids withdraw or distance themselves from the abusive parent, or when the protective parent attempts to limit the children’s exposure to the abusive parent because they are (no shock here) abusive, the abusive parent says this distancing behavior is ‘proof’ of PAS. The abusive parent lies to the court, claiming that the protective parent is alienating the children from them. This deceitful tactic is often used to scare the protective parent and silence the protective parent. The abuser doesn’t want the protective parent speaking up and exposing the abuse.
Tragically, this tactic often works. Many abusive parents get custody this way. Many others get unsupervised access when they are in fact so dangerous to the kids that the kids are suffering severe traumatic symptoms. We are talking here not just about abusers intimidating the kids, or modeling poor character and morals to the kids. We are also talking about abusers who sexually abuse kids, who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol with the kids in the car, who fail to feed the kids properly, change nappies/diapers regularly, and all the other things that parents should do to keep kids healthy and safe. These are just a few examples.
Once they have custody, the abusive parents often start their own aggressive campaign with their children, to set the children against the protective parent. When the protective parent points that out as real and legitimate parental alienation, the courts often dismiss it, as they consider the behavior to be “paternal bonding”.
Leave it to abusers to find a way to project their own behaviors onto their victims, so that they can continue to get away with their abuse! It’s the old ‘turn everything upside down and inside out’ game, the crazy-making game that abusers specialize in. Not only are they actually alienating their kids from the protective parent, but they blame-shift onto the protective parent, in order to deliver a knock out blow and punish the protective parent for ever having crossed them. Slowly but surely, or sometimes before the protective parent even knows what has happened, the abuser has stripped the protective parent of both their legal rights and their emotional connection to their children.
Gardner and his theory of PAS have done much to discredit the real alienation that happens in abusive custody situations, succeeding in confusing the real perpetrators with the true victims, and many children and protective parents have suffered horribly for this, since its wider acceptance in 1987.
But there is hope. The tide of justice seems to be slowly shifting now. The American Psychological Association dismissed and rejected PAS as junk science, refusing to include it in the fifth revision of their Diagnostic Manual (DSM-5). Many courts around America are also beginning to refuse to hear PAS evidence, citing the lack of research to back it as a valid theory as well as its potential danger to true victims of abuse. Lawyers are now being taught how to defend Protective parents against allegations of PAS.
The truth is beginning to show through the darkness. Lies are starting to be exposed. Abusers are being called out, slowly, but it is happening. Still, it’s not enough. There is much damage that still needs repairing. Abusers need to be held accountable for the true alienation that they are perpetrating between kids and their protective parents and for those of us, still fighting, trying anything we can to protect our kids, there are still miles to go before we sleep…
For more information on PAS, its validity, perceptions in the courts today and how to defend against it, please visit: