A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Victims of Evil as Untouchables

Luke 13:10-17  Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.

But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 

Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

We have written about this Scripture before, but I think that it is worth re-visiting. Yesterday for some unknown reason I found myself remembering an incident that occurred when I was in the fifth grade. We lived in Southern Oregon and I attended a local elementary school. I didn’t have any friends yet as we had just recently moved there, so it wasn’t the most fun time of my life. One morning, I think it must have been through a newspaper report, my parents were talking about a fatal traffic accident that had occurred near our house. In the night, a man and his wife had smashed into a tree and the wife was killed.

Later that day, unknown to my parents, I walked over to the scene of the wreck (I often walked through that area anyway) and there was the tree. A big chunk of bark freshly ripped off it. And later that day I found out at school that the people in the wreck were the parents of a girl in my classroom. I still remember her name — Norma.

A few days later as I was walking to a store, I happened past a local funeral home and there was the funeral procession for the lady who was killed. People were standing outside the building, I suppose getting ready to head out to the cemetery. And there was Norma. I saw her standing with some other people, someone holding her hand.

Norma had become untouchable. At least that is what happened in my 11 year old mind. Norma was now different from me. Her world and mine had parted and hers was a world that I was afraid of. I looked away and just kept walking. Funny, I can’t remember anymore interaction with Norma after that. Oh, she must have still been in my class at school, but I just draw a blank now when I try to remember any other contact with her.

There is something about evil that makes us afraid of its victims. Take the woman Jesus healed in the account above. She had been struck with an evil malady. No fault of her own, but still — people went the other way. The religionists of the day used their theology to explain the thing, but did nothing to help her. Jesus called them hypocrites.

When we encounter people who are the victims of evil — such as the evil of abuse that we are exposing here on this blog — our human tendency is to go the other way. To enter into Norma’s new world of grief is fearful for us. To listen to the story pour out of a woman who has been wickedly abused for years and years is not comfortable. To have a relationship of any kind with her is to have contact with that which we really would rather not touch or see. It is ugly. We don’t understand it. Our world is so different, we think.

And I have to conclude that this is one of the chief reasons abuse is so often swept under the carpet and victims are dismissed and told to be quite or go away. We don’t want our world rocked by theirs. We want to stay in our happy place where life is pleasant and untroubled by the “uncleanness” of a person tainted by evil. We don’t want to hear about it and we don’t want to talk about it. And this tells me two things about church leaders who cover up abuse:

  1. They are personally weak and immature at best. They have never truly faced up to their fears, and they don’t want anything or anyone reminding them of the cold, hard facts of life in a fallen world.
  2. They are hypocrites. I was a hypocrite in regard to Norma. Immature indeed. Just a kid, yes. But I professed at that time to be a Christian. And Christians are supposed to be the pre-eminent people to seek out when death and evil strike, right?

As the people of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to be the leaders in staring evil in the face when we see it and announce its presence to all who will hear. “Hey, look! This lady is bent over double and suffering terribly. Let’s see how we can help her!”

In the case recorded here by Luke, the culprit was some kind of “disabling spirit.” Jesus cast it out. In the cases of abuse that we find, the culprit needs to be cast out too.

40 Comments

  1. I am sure I’m not alone when I say I am living proof of this. Even members of my own family won’t discuss my pending divorce with me or even ask me about why. I was a part of a group of fellow homeschool ladies for several years- since word has gotten out about me, no a single one of them (other than a really good friend) has reached out to me or contacted me at all. One lady did email me to see how I was doing when I was just separated — when I responded to her and told I was filing for divorce, I never heard from her again. Many of these women are seriously into Vision Forum type stuff also — so you can imagine.
    My STBE has been out of the house for over a year and a half and our “used to be good friends and neighbors ” two doors down have not spoken to me at all in that time or asked me anything about what is going on. All our kids used to be best friends. It just makes me shake my head.

    • That is so sad PMJ. I am so sorry for the pain those people have caused your kids, too! :(

    • Jeff Crippen

      In the Vision Forum world, divorce is perhaps violation of the first, first commandment. Whenever I have opportunity, I tell people to run fast and far from the VF world.

  2. Jeff . . . This is so true; so apt. There seems to be no going back for me. There is no returning to the “bubble” once you have left it. When my parents died, I was an untouchable. I was utterly lonely because I felt like the elephant in the room. People pretended it didn’t happen and spoke to me in nervous utterances about shallow things. I realized, quickly, that my story was too heavy for others. At some point, in the following years, I learned to cover my story and speak of “positive” things in order to be accepted. It was only a facade. Now, with my abusive past . . . I know I will truly never be able to bring myself to pretend that life does not carry affliction. I loathe being shallow. And it is difficult to find a “place” . . . but perhaps that is not the context God will have for His beloved Untouchables. Perhaps, I have been looking in the wrong places.

    Thank you for this.

  3. Heather 2

    Excellent a points, Jeff. I would like to add a third possibility. When these things happen something takes hold in the minds of others. They are afraid that perhaps their own lives will reveal something sinister if they look too closely. They would rather not know that. I suppose it’s ignorance being bliss.

    As one who lost all but a tight fistful of people, I know the feelings of loneliness and abandonment by those you thought would be there for you. I pray that I never ever treat others that way. May I extend grace and love instead…

    • I have a feeling you will always extend grace and love, Heather 2 . . .

      • Heather 2

        Thank you, Megan. It wasn’t always that way. I am grateful that The Lord uses our circumstances and even our own sins to hone us. But the process is painful. What I’ve seen is a great number of people who I thought of as saved friends being more critical and cruel than unbelievers. Talk about the painful truth!

    • Heather, I am grieving the death of a 50+ year ‘friendship’ with one I thought would understand and I too pray for the Lord’s protection that I never treat others in such a way. Indeed, to pour out grace and love on the hurting and broken. Jeff, thank you. It has been my experience that I might be perceived as ‘contagious’, i.e. my journey might introduce some contagion into their life.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Ah yes, the death of friendships. I know that thing well. But when it comes to following Christ and walking in His truth, some inevitably are going to choose to get back on Broadway.

      • Emotional contagion is real. Modern psychology talks about ‘mirror neurons’ which are involved in empathy, and people who don’t have lots of mirror neuron activity in their brain MRIs don’t show a lot of empathy either.
        You can read more about this in the book Mindsight by Dr Daniel Siegel. He talks about emotional contagion as a positive thing, so long as the person who is resonating with the other person’s emotions has enough mindsight to be able to differentiate and distinguish between their own emotions and thoughts from the emotions and thoughts of the person they are resonating with.

        I think many people don’t have a very well developed ability to differentiate AND resonate with another at the same time. Many people are afraid of feeling their own troubling emotions, so they don’t want to emotionally resonate with someone who is in grief or trauma. Others are good at picking up on the troubling emotions of others, but they don’t differentiate their own stuff from that of the other person, so they give poor counsel: counsel that might apply to themselves but is not helpful to the other person. Others still are good at picking up on the grief or trauma of others, but use it to elevate themselves into a position of superiority: “I’m the helper; you are the helpee.” This last category can be leech-like, feeding on the suffering of others while keeping them in a position of dependency.

      • Heather 2

        Wow! The mind is indeed a complicated thing, Barbara.

        I think what we are seeing various ways we can respond and fool ourselves and others.

        It tells me that we must abide in Christ always and pray for wisdom and discernment. Since my own clarity I have been saying that there is always more to the story, which every Christian needs to accept and understand before condemning.

      • Heather 2

        Contagious. Good word. And sad that so many we trusted turn away. Hugs, cordelectatio. I wish you received love and understanding.

  4. Wendell G

    I think there are a multitude of issues here. Some people just don’t know what to say and are embarrassed to admit it. Some people labor under the mistaken belief that the hurting person just wants to be left alone (then again, it might be better to be left alone by some people than to have them treat you like Job’s friends treated him). Others just don’t want to get involved in conflict. After all, we are taught early on to not take sides, even though we always do (at least by default). Still others can’t handle strong emotion or will avoid any conflict at any cost. And others have already been co-opted into the blame game, usually by the abuser or his/her supporters…

    The excuses are many, and the true carers are few!

  5. I, too, have pulled back in the past. For myself, I can define three issues:
    1. Laziness. Dealing with people’s problems is a lot of work and it is easier to avoid than to take on another project.
    2. Uncertainty and fear: Do I have the ability and resources to help this person? If I do not have certainty, I am afraid to engage. I might fail and be embarrassed.
    3. Lack of love. I hope that I have repented of this but there was I time when I did not care on the level that I should have.
    In fact, I pray that I have repented of all sins related to the failure to engage with those who are suffering.

    • Barnabasintraining

      I am definitely guilty of #2. Probably #1 and #3 as well, but definitely #2.

      • Wendell G

        Me too. For me, it wasn’t until it touched my family personally that it was even on my radar. Until I started getting involved here and with my daughter, I had no inkling how to deal with it in others.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks for the honesty, Larry. You are a good pastor.

  6. Ella

    I and my children became untouchables when I left my husband because the pastor and elders of my church did not want their peers or anyone to think that they would encourage a woman to leave her husband. When there was a threat of child services coming in and removing the children I went to them for help and they told me to take the children and move to another state so as to be closer to our extended family. That was actually a relief on my part to get far away because I didn’t want to lose my children and wanted to get away from my abusive husband. What I didn’t realize is that they just wanted to do an end run around child services and then when it all blew over I would come back to him (what kind of a solution was that?!?) When I told someone that we were leaving and that the church leaders told me to do this, within 20 minutes I had a call from one of the elders telling me that I was NOT to tell people that they told me to go, that they did not want it to get out. From that point on no one came to help me and two friends showed up to say Good-bye but they left as fast as they could.

    • that reminds me of a lady at my church who I confided in during the divorce — I begged her to pray for me that I could sell my house. She said “on ho I can’t pray for that. I’ll just pray that your children always have a home”. Because praying for my immediate needs in that situation would have stained her hands with the “sin” of my divorce. Ah-MAY-zing! ;P

      • Yeah. Pain pain pain, in memories like that . . .

        The Samaritan abandoned in the middle of the road. Oh for more travelers who would pick the wounded survivors up and pay for their rest and recuperation in the local inn. And for innkeepers who would happily take them in, rather than say “No untouchables in this hostelry!”

    • Barnabasintraining

      That is amazing. You can leave but only for the wrong reason and then you have to come back and don’t say we said so at all….That takes coward to a whole new level of low.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sweep, sweep, sweep it all under the rug, out of site. When anyone says they don’t “want it to get out,” the coverup is well under way. There are good secrets, and bad secrets. Good secrets are designed to be short term and to be revealed one day (surprise parties). Bad secrets are secrets that we are pressured to keep hidden forever. But one Day Jesus is coming and He is going to shout secrets from the mountaintops. “Now, Ella, step up here to this giant microphone and tell the whole universe what those guys told you to do.”

      Fortunately in your case they told you to leave. Sounds like their motives were bad in this, but if you have deal with bad motives, better they result in you being able to get away than being made to stay.

  7. I’ve been lurking for a while, and I want to commend you for a unique, much-needed source for DV targets.

    There is another dynamic involved with those who abandon a battered woman: They enjoy the feeling of superiority they experience as they judge her. A needy female, especially, will latch on to a batterer, using his approval of her – in comparison to the woman he’s abusing – as a source of pride. It’s usually the abuser’s girlfriend, but it can be any female in his circle.

    The more she demonizes his wife, the better she feels about herself. When you think about it, that’s exactly the faulty belief system of an abuser.

    • Thanks Jenna, good observation, and welcome to the blog!
      In the cases you’ve described, if the abuser’s girlfriend is doing that superior thing and getting off on the guy’s approval of her for taking his side and looking down on his wife, then the chances are very high that she will eventually be abused by him as well, when the first woman has left him and the girlfriend has become his second (third, fourth. . ) wife. I have even read of such women who became good friends with each other, after they had been serial victims of the same man. They swap notes about how he treated them, and support each other in their recovery. :( :)

    • Jeff Crippen

      Hi Jenna. Good to hear from you. Yep, and that is why it is always a huge red flag when a man (or sometimes a woman) actively does this demonizing of their spouse or ex-spouse, and does so willingly, telling others what that “stupid *&^%$” so and so did. We have found that genuine abuse victims will eventually, as they awaken from the fog of the craziness, start telling what they had to endure from their abuser, but it is far different than someone who willingly and almost eagerly disparages their ex. The real victim does so rather reluctantly and with a more humble, almost disbelieving air, while the fake spews the accusations and filth out like a fire hydrant.

      • King'sDaughter

        ” We have found that genuine abuse victims will eventually, as they awaken from the fog of the craziness, start telling what they had to endure from their abuser”

        I’m glad you mentioned that! I have been wrestling with the desire to “expose” some of the dark deeds of my spouse. Its not a desire to hurt or punish, but a strong yearning for people to know the truth, the real truth. I know better than to do it, but the thought of posting a picture of the bruises, a recording of his hateful talk or just a scenario of what its like to live with someone who despises you, has crossed my mind. It seems for years he has been spinning this web, maligning me behind my back to anyone who would listen, playing the role of “adoring husband & father” when anyone was looking but meanwhile tearing down & bullying us in private, keeping us so love-starved and confused that we played right along…. And now that the low-life woman has the gall to stand and say “no more” (tongue-in-cheek), maligning her all the more & twisting facts to make himself out to be the victim all the more… I don’t feel as personally offended by this as I am disturbed by the deception overall (if that makes any sense? Kinda, its not about me, but the sheer ickyness of the situation itself is disgusting and ought to be exposed). Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like anger, just plain “hey, this is a lie. OK? OK.”

      • Yes, KD. Truth is important, and in obedience to the God of truth, we can, like David, say “I hate every false way.”

        I am disturbed by the deception overall . . the sheer ickyness of the situation itself is disgusting and ought to be exposed.

        Bullseye.

    • I know of a couple of situations where the abusers’ mothers do this. So gross.

      • “It seems for years he has been spinning this web, maligning me behind my back to anyone who would listen, playing the role of “adoring husband & father” when anyone was looking but meanwhile tearing down & bullying us in private…”

        Just two observations: In my work in DV, I call what is described here, “Social Alienation Syndrome”. It’s the most effective way for an abuser to isolate his target.

        Second: The absolutely normal, even expected response of battered women and their children is anger – not only at the abuser, but at those who encourage him. In my opinion, that anger is indicative of the fact that they retain their God-given sense of their value in His eyes.

        Yet in the culture/court system, a battered woman is scorned if she expresses her outrage at the behavior of the batterer; further, in custody and visitation issues, she can be – and often is – held responsible if the children are reluctant to see the male who terrorized their home.

        Protective mothers have to be very careful in the current climate – and that fact itself is a chilling indictment of this culture.

      • Spot on, Jenna! Indictment indeed.

  8. What a good post, Jeff. You have done a very good job of creating identification with what can motivate avoidance or extrapolate to “blaming the victim.” Which helps others identify their own tendency to do this. Seeing through your eyes one can remember seeing similarly through their own, and recognize what they are doing if they head that way again.

    The conversation via comments is also great! Barbara, I appreciate the research you mentioned. “I think many people don’t have a very well developed ability to differentiate AND resonate with another at the same time.” Love this statement – it has a lot to do with forming healthy boundaries. I will remember this….maybe make it a goal!!! Next stop Amazon to check it out.

    Key is educating one another so that we know better how to identify and support, so that we can save someone else the grief some of us have experienced. Which you are doing quite well – Jeff and Barbara, and commentors. Thanks to all! Diane

    • I post a few abuse related articles each week to fb. I do this to get the info out there to people who need it. I’ve been accused of posting to make X look bad even though I have never once mentioned him in any of these posts. But I don’t need to explain or argue. I know I’m trying to bring hope and freedom where it’s needed. I am so glad to share these resources and I hope the Church learns from our experience and helps those in need.

  9. AMEN. That says it all!

  10. fiftyandfree

    What I have experienced personally in the midst of the abusive marriage and subsequent divorce is what I think the Bible refers to as partiality. The abuse survivor/divorced mother just doesn’t fit the description of “Christian family” and thus is often overlooked. I grieve over the loss of many friends who still call themselves “friends” but whom I never hear from. I am not invited to many “Christian family” events because perhaps when they think of families to invite, I and my children, slip their minds. I don’t believe any of these folks would intentionally hurt me, and I doubt they are aware of how lonely I am, and how much it hurts to be left out time and time again because I am no longer married. The Bible speaks plainly against partiality and I think one of the groups of people most often treated with partiality is the abused/divorced woman.

  11. Annie

    Love the exchanges here. So many different angles and experiences, with abuse being one of the many layers. 50 years ago my younger brother died and immediately I entered that confusing world of becoming an untouchable, and for what reason i didn’t know. I just knew I didn’t want to be one of those. But with domestic abuse, I think victims suffer from the untouchable syndrome because of fundamental attribution errors made by Christians. Somehow, if someone is a victim of abuse, she/he must be lacking in faith..or she has character flaws to attract the wrong type of people…or it was her fault for throwing away the marriage…or she must be so broken she is useless for service. Whatever the case, she is only deserving of pity.Single mothers are not seen as whole human beings who are full of faith, Spirit-led, equipped for service, gifted by God in different areas and deserving of respect. Instead they are untouchable.

    • The only thing I disagree with is that battered mothers are deserving of pity. They should be honored as heroes – yet this culture regards them as weak, co-dependent, helpless, and naïve. They’re seen as women who blindly give in to the abuser, and who share the blame for the crimes committed against them.

      The truth is, they’re a lot tougher, and a lot more intelligent, than this culture will acknowledge. That’s how they survive, and that’s how they protect their children, because there is so little real help for them. By the way, I’m not directing this at you, Annie – I’m speaking generically: in my opinion, the cultural disrespect that is shown to battered mothers is outrageous.

      Think about the real station of an abused mother: she sacrifices every part of herself for the sake of her children, while conducting her life within a society that infantilizes her, and a system – even within the church – that demands that she submit. Not only to the abuser, but to a Family Court system that avoids reality at all costs, and works overtime to keep her from escaping.

      The most heroic women I’ve known are the ones who stand between their children and a batterer – and the culture that encourages and supports him. In the current climate, she has very few options, and I hope to see that change.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Jenna- “The truth is, they’re a lot tougher, and a lot more intelligent, than this culture will acknowledge. That’s how they survive, and that’s how they protect their children, because there is so little real help for them.” Absolutely. These ladies are courageous and tough.

      • Jenna I wholeheartedly agree, and thank you for trumpeting this message.

        Victim-survivors of domestic abuse should be honored: they are super-intelligent and creative in the ways they survive and resist abuse and seek to protect their children like mother lions including how they often have to struggle with the family court that (as you say) often works overtime to keep them from getting fully free from the abuser. Those who think that separation from the abuser means there is no more abuse, are living in fantasy land. :(

        I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I highly recommend a PDF booklet called Honoring Resistance which comes from the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.

      • Annie

        Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say about the misjudgements made by Christians. They wrongly attribute to these heroic victims character flaws and mental illness that justify them treating these mothers as pitiful and in need of their counsel/help. Then they can thump their chest to showcase how well they reach out and embrace the broken in society… All the while avoiding them like the plague.

      • Annie, this chest thumping and grandstanding is part of what I see in Judges 20 & 21, which are part of the subject matter of my talk on the Levite’s Concubine story.
        The video of my talk is currently being edited by a young man who has kindly volunteered to do so. When it’s completed I’m going to put it up on You Tube.

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