A Cry For Justice

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

A Heart Set Free — book review by Rachael Miller

The Psalms of Lament help us journey through the dark valleys until we can emerge on the other side and bow in grateful worship. — Christina Fox

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament [affiliate link*] by Christina Fox has been reviewed by Rachel Miller. We are sharing excerpts from her review. You can read the full review at A Daughter of the Reformation.

A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament by Christina Fox is a book about learning from the Psalms of Lament how to cry out to God.

Instead of pretending our emotions don’t exist or that we aren’t hurting, we need to learn how to lament, how to express our emotions in our Christian walk:

The Psalms, especially the Psalms of Lament, give us a structure for how to express our feelings. They remind us what is true. They point us to God’s love and faithfulness. They help us journey through the dark valleys until we can emerge on the other side and bow in grateful worship. (17)

Christina starts the book with the bad news. Our worry, anxiety, fear, doubt are the result of sin:

Sin is the cause of all our pain and sorrow. It might be the sins of others committed against us that bring us feelings of shame. It might be the effects of sin on the creation around us that bring a natural disaster, resulting in loss and our subsequent grief. It might be the brokenness of our bodies, causing us emotional turmoil or the failure of our minds to work as God intended. It might be our own sinful responses to what happens in our lives. It might even be a combination of all these, but at its root, sin is what brings us all our sorrows, griefs, and fears. (39)

She goes on to explain that our normal means of coping (distraction, control, or simply giving in to the worry and fear) are not helping the situation. We’re making the problem worse and not actually dealing with our emotions. I was particularly convicted by what she had to say about using “control”:

Some of us try to handle our emotions, such as worry, fear, or anxiety by attempting to control all the things we worry or fear about. We make to-do lists and refuse to rest until each item is checked off . We research thoroughly everything that worries us. Google and Clorox are our two best friends. … Control is something we all desire but none of us have. … Our desire and pursuit of control are in fact a denial of God’s control. We don’t trust that His plans are good enough. We think we know better what we need. All the worrying, fretting, and stressing we do over our life situations stem from a lack of trust in God’s good and perfect plan for us. (40-41)

Thankfully the book doesn’t stop there and leave us condemning ourselves for our failures. Christina moves on to share the hope of the gospel for the believer wracked with fear or worry or depression:

The gospel of grace has not only saved us from our sins in the past and those in the future, but also empowers us in the present. It is applicable in our daily struggles of walking by faith. It frees us from the bondage of bitterness, anger, worry, fear, despair, and doubt. (59)

But the journey doesn’t end with recognizing our need for a Savior. Knowing that sin has caused our hearts such pain and accepting the grace that God gives us in our salvation through Christ, we still face the day to day challenge of living in a sinful, broken world. And this is where A Heart Set Free is very helpful.

Christina lays out the format of the Psalms of Lament and explains the various elements. The purpose it to teach us to make our own laments using the Psalms as a model. In the Psalms of Lament, there is a “three-part structure” that we can use in our prayers: crying out to God, asking for help, responding in trust and praise (87).

Using these steps we can begin to learn to express our emotions to God and learn to trust in Him through our painful situations. That last part is the one that really challenged me. Since the death of our daughter years ago, I have learned to cry out to God, to tell Him what I’m feeling. I realized months after Bethanne died that I was angry and that I was hurting. And it dawned on me that there was no use in pretending before God that I wasn’t. He knew. And not only did He already know, He loved me. He loved me even though I was angry and hurting. So I cried out to Him and told Him what was on my heart. And He heard me. The pain was still there, but things changed that day. I knew I wasn’t forgotten or unloved.

When my boys were born, I learned to ask God for help daily. Being a mother showed me how much I needed Him all the time. But I have always struggled with the final step. Having cried out and asked God for help, I tend to short circuit and go back to worry and trying to control my situations. The book reminded me that the next step is to trust God and praise Him:

This step of the laments is the part where many of us get to and we stop. It’s easy to cry out to God and ask for help but to trust Him in the darkness where we cannot see what’s ahead of us? That’s the hard part. (134)

Christina reminds us that:

There may also be times when we go through this journey with the psalmist and we respond in trust and worship and still feel grief. We may still feel intense sorrow. This process of following the structure of the laments is not a magical incantation that erases all our emotions. It’s not a step by step list to follow that will take away our problems. But it is a journey that draws us closer to God. (138)

This joy can co-mingle with other emotions. It can co-exist side by side with other feelings and circumstances like sorrow and fear. Even when life is at its hardest, gospel joy is still there. It is always present, like an anchor in the storms of life. (139)

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link


The hypocrisy of lip service

An ancient anonymous inscription inside Lubeck Cathedral, Germany

Ye call Me Master and obey me not. 
Ye call Me Light and see me not.
Ye call Me Way and walk me not. 
Ye call Me Life and choose me not.
Ye call Me Wise and follow me not.
Ye call Me Fair and love me not.
Ye call Me Rich and ask me not.
Ye call Me Eternal and seek me not.
Ye call Me Noble and serve me not.
Ye call Me Gracious and trust me not.
Ye call Me Might and honor me not.
Ye call Me Just and fear me not.

If I condemn you, blame Me not.

Matthew 15:8-9
These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. 

Isaiah 29:13-14
Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths

And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent 
men shall be hidden.

Further Reading

Traditions of men Have largely Consumed the Evangelical Church and are Causing Widespread Suffering

All who are intent on doing evil will be cut off (Isaiah 29)


Steps to Freedom: Escaping Intimate Control – Don Hennessy’s new book (DH Digest part 12)

Don Hennessy’s book Steps to Freedom: Escaping Intimate Control is different from most ‘sympathy’ and ‘support’ books which rely on the target woman to protect herself. Instead it talks directly to the target woman while she is being controlled and hopes to give her the permission and the skills to protect her mind and her soul.

Sean Moncrieff interviews Don Hennessy about Steps to Freedom. I urge you to listen to this. Once again Don Hennessy cuts to the heart of what is really going on when men abuse their female partners.

Steps to Freedom is written in practical and accessible language, including case studies.

Controlling behaviour, particularly of men towards women, is far more common, in all walks of life, than we have been led to believe. In this easy-to-read guide, best-selling author Don Hennessy offers practical advice to all those dealing with violent or controlling behaviour in their own lives, based on his experience of dealing with hundreds of such people in a therapeutic setting. Most important, he explains to the reader how they can throw off the shackles and life lives free from fear and intimidation.

Steps to Freedom:Escaping Intimate Control can be purchased direct from the Irish publisher libertiespress.com/shop/steps-to-freedom.

Amazon UK and Amazon Canada have listed it as being available April 30.

The US distributor has a separate release schedule from the British Commonwealth distributor, as is common with newly published books. Amazon US have listed it as available May 14.

Don Hennessy is the Director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency and the author of the best-selling How He Gets Into Her Head. He is a relationship counsellor who has worked for many years with women who are experiencing difficulties with abusive or controlling partners. Don has been interviewed in the Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and Irish Times, and is a regular contributor on the subject of intimate control in the broadcast media in Ireland and internationally.

The Northern Ireland Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership says:


On this blog we have published a Don Hennessy Digest which contains an exposition of How He Gets Into Her Head and a few different media items where Hennessy is one of the speakers.



What’s OK at Home? – domestic abuse info for young people

Kids and teens aged 10-17 can go to What’s OK at Home? to find info about domestic abuse and family violence. The site helps young people recognize domestic abuse and provides practical guidance to support their safety, health and emotional wellbeing if they are experiencing domestic abuse in their own family.

It also has a section for adults who want to help a child or young person in a family-violence situation, with information about what to do, where to get help, the law, and guidance on how you can make a difference in a young person’s life.

Note: the website is Australian so there may be some info there which does not pertain to other countries.

The site has been created by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV), a statewide service in Victoria, Australia that aims to prevent family violence and promote respectful relationships.

We have added links to this site on our Resources pages:

Children of Domestic Violence,

Family & Friends

Domestic Violence Agencies and Websites Around the World.

#DomesticViolence    #FamilyViolence    #DomesticAbuse    #Teens    #Children



How society can prevent domestic abuse (Don Hennessy series part 11)

Don Hennessy says:

We need to find a way to challenge the tolerance of male sexual entitlement which is endemic in our society. This goal is the only one not supported by the skilled offender. (208*)  

The issue that limits most of us is that the reality of intimate partner abuse is beyond our belief. (215)

After more than thirty years of energy and commitment our efforts have achieved very little. We have become tangled in a debate that is being orchestrated unwittingly on behalf of skilled offenders. I use the word unwittingly with caution because the power and the success of this distractive discussion may well be a highly efficient and well-hidden tactic of male sexual predators. (203)

The system designed and supported by the community has also been contaminated by the psychephile. (214)

We need to take the focus from the target woman and place it on the skilled offender. (215)

Don Hennessy (image from independent.ie/life/family/family-features/red-flags-of-coercive-control-36681122.html)

According to Hennessy, there are two levels of reform

  1. The first level is to change people’s behaviour. This is possible. Men can be given strong reasons for saying one cannot do this ever again. This may change their behaviour. 
  2.  However, to change their beliefs or attitudes…may take 1,000 years or so of hard work. Certainly, I will not see it in my lifetime in the sense that it is a long-term problem. (source)

Professionals who work in the domestic abuse field call that second level Primary Prevention.

Is gender equality the answer?

From what I (Barbara Roberts) have read, research indicates that societies with more gender equality tend to have lower rates of male violence against women. Professionals in the domestic abuse field are deducing from this that primary prevention must involve working towards gender equality.

However, Sweden is a country which has gender equality embedded in its social structures more than most other countries, yet despite its reputation for equal opportunity in the workplace Sweden has one of highest rates of domestic violence in Europe. See the article Gender neutrality but high domestic violence rate in Sweden says Rosie Batty. Rosie Batty is a survivor of domestic violence whose son, Luke, was murdered by his father. Rosie was made Australian of the Year in 2014 because of her outstanding advocacy for victims of domestic abuse. You can watch Rosie Batty’s report about her trip to Sweden here.

I know that some countries are intentionally working towards gender equality. But I also know there is another strong force working against the gains they might be making. I’m talking about the porn juggernaut. Pornography is empowering men who abuse their intimate female partners. One of the most popular genres of porn watched by males is the genre which shows women being raped.

Men’s Rights Associations (MRA’s) are also empowering abusive men. MRA’s are an echo chamber where skilled offenders encourage and teach young disaffected men to treat women like sexual objects and domestic slaves.

Even if a society has outwardly embedded gender equality into its laws and institutions, that may be far from sufficient to resist the lethal undertow of the porn juggernaut.

My sense is that while working towards gender equality in society may help, it will not be the whole answer.

In my observation the debate about gender equality is typically admixed with LGBQTI issues. That blending of issues tends to put off genuine Christians. They don’t want to be seen to endorse same-sex relationships and transgender moves because those things are prohibited by Scripture, so they are extremely reluctant to recognise (let alone address) assumptions of male privilege in the bedroom. And of course, there are male-privilege diehards in the visible church who obstinately do their best to control the narrative.

Don Hennessy says that the responsibility of men in the realm of sexual intimacy needs to be our specific focus

For our primary intervention to succeed we need to address the clear and dynamic tactics that young men bring to the task of getting their sexual needs met. We need to challenge the belief that underpins all of their tactics. This belief, of the dominance of their sexual entitlements, has been fostered by the history of, and the justification given to, all sexual predators. It will take courage and integrity to challenge this belief. (183)

The ultimate aim of all our efforts should be to develop a society where sexual integrity is a given for every person. … [Where] the right of a woman to say no will be overridden by the responsibility of the man to seek permission. (214)

When we can establish the need that a woman says yes, then we will make it the duty of the man to ask permission. This is the shift that all men resist. This is the change of language that is needed… (214)

The Bible confirms what Hennessy says.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4b it says that the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does (see my post Saying No to sex with one’s spouse).

And the most detailed list of prohibited sexual acts in the Bible (Leviticus 18) addresses all its prohibitions to men.

While the Bible does not condone the sexual sins of women, I think a good case could be made it gives more emphasis to the sexual sins of men.

Back to Don Hennessy:

Domestic violence work is fundamentally different from counseling. (227) 

The hopelessness in dealing with uncontrolled sexual entitlement is very concisely dealt with in the biblical exchange (Matthew 18:6) where a question is asked about those who scandalize children. The reply is amazing in its clarity and brutality. The only way to stop these people is to drown them. Perhaps we are too civilised to consider such a barbaric act but the implications of the message are that we need to be very vigorous and very vigilant if we are to stop skilled offenders. (240)  [Note from Barb: I have put four translations of Matthew 18:6 at the bottom of this post.]

From working with male intimate abusers it is clear that these offenders are more skilful and more devious than the sex offender who confines his abuse to children. The offender who can develop and sustain a long-term adult abusive relationship with his intimate partner is extremely skilful and determined. (240)

He also has the advantage of the tolerant attitude of the community. Child abuse is no longer misunderstood or accepted. In the last fifty years we as a society have come to accept the appalling effects that pedophiles have on the lives of their targets. Perhaps in the next fifty years we will begin to document and report the effects that adult intimate abusers, the psychephiles, have on the target women. When we can expose what these men do and the effect it has on the women they target, we may be able to eliminate the tolerance that inhibits our response. (241)

Hopefully we will learn from our response to paedophilia and transfer our experience to working with adult intimate abusers. We must take the issue seriously. More importantly, we can no longer allow the skilled offenders to influence what we do. (241)

We need to acknowledge the evil

Above all else we need to acknowledge that the force we are trying to manage, the evil we are trying to stop, will not yield easily. (215)

Clergy may want to mediate because they wish to avoid the reality of the evil that is at work. (213)

Even with courage and integrity we will find that society will resist the challenge. (183)

In 2014 Don Hennessy spoke to a parliamentary committee in the Republic of Ireland (full transcript here). He and other DV specialists had been invited to speak to the parliamentarians about domestic abuse. Here is some of what Hennessy said:

I thank the committee for inviting me to speak. A couple of words that I want to introduce early are “crime” and “evil”. I have heard one but not the other. Male intimate abuse is the most widespread form of crime in this country, but it is also the most evil form of behaviour that I have ever encountered. All of our efforts to deal with this crime have failed because of our ignorance, our tolerance and our desire to be fair.

Our ignorance is founded on our reliance on the victim to explain her experience while she is unaware of the covert tactics of targeting, setting up and grooming that are used by all psychephiles to establish and maintain mind control. This is why I call them “psychephiles”.

Our tolerance is founded on our ambivalence about male sexual priority, which is rife throughout the country.

Our desire to be fair causes us to misdiagnose the perpetrator and to fail to recognise his psychopathic terrorism and his sociopathic lying. It leads us to blame the victim and collude with the psychephile. It will lead us to be groomed by the psychephile and will inevitably cause us to wilt under his persistence. It will allow us to resist putting human rights legislation into our law and to claim constitutional support for putting property rights before victim safety rights. It will give the word of a sociopathic liar equal status with that of the victim. It will allow the psychephiles, who account for one in four of all men in relationships, to dictate our response. It will eventually lead to us doing nothing to solve the problem.

For a few minutes, I would like to put on record how people can do nothing energetically.  

[Hennessy then describes how a 1997 Task Force on Violence Against women made lots of recommendations, but in 2012 a review showed that very few of those recommendations had been put into effect – and those which were being implemented were only at an early stage.] 

A solution to the problem is to stop talking, to read what we promised to do in 1997 and to make a start there. 


Psalm 82:1-4, 8

God takes His stand in His own congregation;
He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked? 

Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 

Arise, O God, judge the earth!
For it is You who possesses all the nations.

Matthew 18:6

Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me – it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! (HCSB)

Whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (American King James Version)

Whoever misleads one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung about his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Modern English Version)

Everyone who commits an offense against one of these little ones who believe in me, it were profitable for him that a donkey’s millstone would be hung around his neck and he be sunk in the depths of the sea. (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Exodus 21:16

Whoever kidnaps a person must be put to death, whether he sells him or the person is found in his possession. (Christian Standard Bible)

   ***    ***    ***    ***    ***    ***

*Unless otherwise indicated, all indented quotes in this post are from Don Hennessy’s book How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser  [*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.]  We have added this book to our Gift Books Offer in which we offer to give certain books to cash-strapped victims.

Emphasis in all quotes has been added by me.

Steps to Freedom: Escaping Intimate ControlDon Hennessy’s new book, can be purchased direct from the Irish publisher libertiespress.com/shop/steps-to-freedom

Hennessy says that Steps to Freedom is different from most ‘sympathy’ and ‘support’ books which rely on the target woman to protect herself. Instead it talks directly to the target woman while she is being controlled and hopes to give her the permission and the skills to protect her mind and her soul.

Amazon UK and Amazon Canada have listed it as available April 30.
As is common with newly published books, the US distributor has a separate release schedule from the British Commonwealth distributor. Amazon US have listed it as available May 14.

Further reading:

Male Privilege is the underlying driver of domestic abuse. — Ken Lay, former Police Commissioner

Learning to see red flags

Violence against women: it’s a men’s issue — a TED talk by Jackson Katz

Abuse and Pre-Marriage Counseling: We Must Change Our Approach – by Ps Jeff Crippen

Wise as Serpents Digest

Trusting God when the Reviler Attacks — by Ps Sam Powell

Trusting God when the Reviler Attacks
Psalm 31 (NKJV)
by Ps Sam Powell

Psalm 31 In You, O Lord, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
2 Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.

3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.
4 Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

6 I have hated those who regard useless idols;
But I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities,
8 And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place.

9 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
10 For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.
11 I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.
16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me for Your mercies’ sake.
17 Do not let me be ashamed, O Lord, for I have called upon You;
Let the wicked be ashamed;
Let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be put to silence,
Which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!
20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion
From the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!
22 For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

23 Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.
24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.

You can listen to this sermon by clicking on the link above.

Further Reading
Another Look at the Abuser as Reviler
An Abuser is Called a “Reviler” in Scripture, And the Reviler is no Christian