A Cry For Justice

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

Wise Words About Documenting the Abuse and Reporting it

Today, after hearing another devastating story, I feel the need to share how important it is to document all abuse, to file police reports, and to call 911 when there is an incident. Here is the story: 

When I was with my abuser, I was afraid of how it would look to our neighbors to have the police come out; my own pride kept me from reaching out to law enforcement, all to look good in my community. Please, if you are in these shoes, get over your pride. To make decisions out of pride will cost you dearly later! That may be the biggest mistake I made before I left my husband who was abusive in all ways. Because I did not use the powers that God ordained, I am paying dearly now.

He is completely in denial of all abuse. That’s not really so bad because I’m used to his denial. The sad part is that he told me for years that he can turn my family and friends against me. I did not believe him. Reality is that he has roused up a support in the religious community that is unbelievable, and their actions against me are spiteful, threatening, and hateful. The lies and accusations are all malignant in nature. The sad thing is not how they are treating me, because it is an excellent time of refining for me, but tragedy is how bad they make God look.

If you go to your husband and he does any or all of the following (most follow this same pattern), recognize these things as classic traits of abuse:

  • first there is denial, saying nothing happened,
  • next he will say that you made him hurt you,
  • then he will say that as your husband, he has a right to punish you,
  • and if he’s really crazy, he might say you are the one physically hurting him!

If he forces sexual actions on you against your will, quoting the Bible to say this is his right, file a police report. This is devastating to your spirit and will destroy you. File all abuse with the law enforcement. They are ordained by God to deal with law breakers, your preacher isn’t.

One last point here, find a safe place physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you go to your pastor and he justifies abuse, honorably excuse yourself and shake the dust off your shoes as you leave! Do not try to convince him! There are many [ACFJ Editor note – we would say there are SOME, not many] safe pastors, churches, and counselors out there who are grounded in the word of God. They have a backbone to stand up for justice and to teach you what marriage that God ordained is all about, by His Word.

* * *

Comments from Jeff C 

The bulleted points above are dead-on accurate. I have experienced these very things exactly as our guest poster has described them here, and in the very same order. I did not experience them in a marriage, but in the church where abusers also often strive to be “first” like Diotrephes. I have literally heard such people use the exact words against myself and our elders and anyone else in the church who confronted them. So note those points carefully and be able to recognize them when they are used against you. My favorite way of opposing them now is “Stop that right now!” (“Stop what?” they will say). “Stop playing the victim, stop claiming I am the offender, and stop claiming that I made YOU say/do something.” [If you are in a physically dangerous scenario, you may not want to be this confrontational however.]

* * *

* Advice from Barb about making a report to the police

  • Ask the police officer you are speaking to what his/her name and number is and WRITE IT DOWN right then and there. Also write the date and time you spoke to the officer. The date and time will identify which shift the officer was working. That can be helpful if you are following up later.
  • Ask the officer if your report will be actually documented as a report of a crime, or just jotted in the officer’s notebook. What will happen to the report you’ve made? For example, will the officer be able to retrieve and access it later should you need it to help you in a court process later?

This is important. Often when I’ve made what I thought was a ‘report’ to the police. I’ve not written down the officer’s name and number and the time, and it’s much harder to follow up later. And many times all my report became was a scribble in the officer’s notebook, especially if I’d told the officer that I did not want the offender formally charged. This may not be how police operate in your jurisdiction, but take nothing for granted. Ask them and double check their replies and document what they have said to you as soon as practicable. It’s hard to remember it later.

Comment from Ellie

In my experience, police do not like hearing, “I don’t want him arrested.” That makes them feel like they have wasted their time and effort. The officers who responded to my call did not like that one bit. So I suggest never uttering those words. If it’s a report you want, ask for that. If a report leads to an abuser’s arrest, you’ll make it through that even if it knocks the wind out of you. If you can call the arraignment court and get a restraining order attached to the arraignment, that’ll save you some trouble down the road. Documenting all you can helps you keep your sanity when all around you are attempting to minimize the abuser’s actions.

* * *

The following items from our Safety Planning resources page give further ideas about how to effectively utilise the secular justice system.

Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit

Ensure that a victim’s words about her fears and previous violence will not disappear if she does.
A victim can make an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (EAA) to document her experiences in ways that will help the legal system successfully prosecute in the future, even if she is disappeared, dead or in a coma.
The process combines video taping of the victim’s actual words attesting to the abuse, coupled with witnessed and notarized legal documents that successfully satisfy legal hurdles often faced in intimate partner violence and stalking cases.
A unique packaging of testimony + documentation + perpetrator historical profiling + pre-collected evidence delivered to established safe and legal persons = a delicate issue brilliantly wrapped up for successful prosecution.

How to Collect Evidence if your intervention order (protection order) is breached

This five minute video is by Women’s Health West and Victoria Police of Victoria, Australia. It features local women demonstrating simple and practice ways of gathering evidence. Note: This video is from Victoria, Australia, where protection orders are called “intervention orders” and the emergency phone number is 000, not 911 as in the USA.

22 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    I daresay, this was something I did year after year after year – but not to the police or other powers that be. I wrote them down for my own record, but then year after year after year would rip them up or delete the emails to female prayer partners, etc. All because I misunderstood the Scripture “love keeps no record of wrongs.” Oh, how wrong I was to get rid of those notes. I have recollected them now as best I can, but even so, the courts and culture are not favorable to women and children in the hands of a denying abuser. Today, it’s all about “fathers’ rights.” (Forget about the kids and their “rights.”) It should be a privilege and not a right for a father to have time with his child, but not so today.

    And yes – go through the legal system (police, abuse hotlines, and the like), not pastors, who (1) probably will wield the Word like a sword against the target of abuse already and (2) will not have their word respected in a court of law.

    if there’s *anything* I’d advise someone in a situation of abuse, it would be document, document, document.

    • Ellie

      I also encourage folks to document interactions with their church, pastors, elders, etc as well. If you can legally record meetings, I pray that you do. So many times churches make promises only to forget or deny them. Also having the terrible things they tell targets to do recorded might give the targets some traction when they come out of the fog and start looking to hold churches who ally themselves with abusers accountable. Ecclesiastical trials to see if you’re a Christian? Record that thing (legally, of course. Check your local laws to ensure compliance). The voice recorder app on my phone was my best friend for a very long time.

    • Here’s a link to Jeff’s post What Does ‘Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs’ Mean?, in case it is of interest to any readers here.

      • Ann

        Thank you Barbara! I have thought about this many times and only two days ago wanted to ask about here.

      • Still Reforming

        Oh, THANK YOU! Boy, did I ever get that one wrong for way too many years!

  2. Still Reforming

    I forgot to write something of paramount importance here that I am ashamed to say hadn’t occurred to me before: ” tragedy is how bad they make God look.”

    God knows His Word and how and when it is rightly divided and applied. And He knows when it’s wielded wrongly. It is something we should all take to heart – the glory of God when correctly understanding and using His Word.

    It’s a travesty of justice and the LORD’s character when the children of God fear the church leaders as much as their own abusive husbands.

  3. Ann

    A Christian friend married an abuser. She was careful to keep copies of police reports documenting his abuse. He told her he had re-dedicated his life to God and wanted to start over with their relationship to include a ceremony at their home renewing their vows. She was thrilled; at last her prayers were being answered. Part of the ceremony included burning any journals and police reports in order to put the past behind. She in good faith was willing to offer a totally fresh slate.

    Within hours the abuse started again, only this time he ramped it up. He also went on a campaign to malign her to their children, family and friends; they all believed him. The ensuing craziness led her to take anti-depressants. In short order she was a mess and he convinced the courts she was an unfit mother. She had to leave the home and was not allowed to see her children for many years. She has since remarried and has steadily been repairing her relationship with her children.

    I still remember her warning me to never get rid of any evidence against my abusive husband. Unfortunately I never called the police the times he physically attacked me; I didn’t want my boys to see their father taken away in handcuffs and I was afraid of the possibility he would be allowed back in the house. Oh how I wish I reported him and pressed charges!

    • oh. Wow.
      I nearly did something like what your friend did myself.

      When I reconciled with my first husband after four years of separation and two protection orders and a custody and property settlement had all happened, we did a renewal of vows ceremony in my church. You can imagine how packed the church was! Everyone in Christendom likes a ‘happy ending’ story!
      When planning and preparing for the ceremony, I imagined how I could burn (yes burn with a match, before all those present in the church) the Protection Order the court had granted me against my husband. I am so glad I did not put that imaginary scene into practice!

      For one thing, it would have been dishonouring to the secular court which had granted me the Protection Order. It would have been thumbing my nose at the State which, by God’s providence, had threatened my abuser with consequences if he defied the Order. I was still a somewhat super-spiritual/silly/gullible woman in those days. Thank God that He matured me!

      For another thing, it would have been foolish to burn that Court Order. That Court Order which prohibited my husband to molest, harrass, stalk, abuse me, be within so many metres of my house, etc., was the thing I relied on twelve months later, when I went back to the court to seek protection from his abuse again.

      Mind you, the court computer had a record of that Order, so if I’d burnt that piece of paper, the Order would not have ceased to exist. But the day I happend to go back court to (as I thought) apply for ‘another’ order because my husband had re-assualted me, the court’s computer was down, so that much worn and folded piece of paper in my wallet was really helpful! And that Order still applied, because it had no end date! The Clerk of Court looked at that much-worn piece of paper, believed me, and sent me straight over the police station with a letter he’d written and printed out for me to give the police. That letter advised the police to arrest my husband and immediately bail him on orders similar to a protection order: forbiddding him to come home to my house (the house was in my name; though I don’t know how relevant that was).

      He came home that night only in the company of a policeman and only to pick up some clothes and his toothbrush and such. And he was housed in a motel, at the expense of the police that night. I was free!

      I can still remember the moment when I stood at the doorpost between my lounge room and dining room, the day after, when my being freed hit me, and the weight dropped from my shoulders!

      • standsfortruth

        Some states allow for 1 party voice recordings to be used as evidence in court if it comes to that.
        The fathers rights laywers movement may very well be suggesting that the abuser to turn on his voice recorder every time he has an opportunity to converse with his spouse. ( in order to malign or trap her into saying something he could later use against her.)
        Make sure you order your steps wisely around your abuser if you are planning a divorce, and make sure have a daily journal where you log all of the important happenings of the day.
        We have the Holy Spirit within us and can pray for God to give us the needed measure of self control, and wisdom durring this time of testing.
        We can ask God to grant us the spirit of knowledge and discernment that will alert us as to what our abuser is doing, moment by moment, and how to deal with him.
        Never underestimate the power of the holy spirit to lead us into all truth.
        These are only some of the the spiritual weapons we have that are mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.
        But the abuser only has his “flesh, and misguided thoughts” and without the temperance of the holy spirit, he is sure to lose the battle against the informed and stedfast christian.

      • Jeff Crippen

        standsfortruth – You are correct that ultimately the believer will prevail over the wicked. However, I would temper that truth with the realization that the victory does not always come soon, nor does it always come fully in this present life. Christ’s people are waiting for that great Day when Christ deals perfect justice to all. Some victims have been killed by their abuser. Others have been given completely unjust verdicts by courts. This has been the experience of Christ’s sheep all through the history of the church. The Psalms have much to say about the righteous being persecuted by the wicked, and crying out to the Lord for justice. So we stay informed. We remain faithful to Christ and steadfast in our certain hope. We give thanks to the Lord for any justice we experience now, and for His deliverances. But look to the return of the King as your ultimate hope. He is coming, and He is coming to judge the earth. Abusers, He is coming for YOU.

      • Anonymous

        Reading this thread it occurred to me–if the abuser had truly been changed due to God’s intervention in his / her life, the abuser should ENCOURAGE the victim to keep the journals–as proof that God had changed their lives. They should both be able to go over the journals together and cry and be thankful that such a horrific person had been changed so completely and that they both had the testimony of the journals full of the abuse, to prove it and to remind them of how much God had done in their lives. BAM!

  4. selah

    Is there any way to request a physician’s clinic visit record on a date when a person goes there with an injury and reported abuse incident? Asking for myself. On an evening of abuse, I phoned a pastor instead of police. I went to the pastor and his wife who housed me for the evening and went to the doctor in the morning. THIS WAS A MISTAKE – Using a pastor instead of police – now in retrospect – was a major mistake of judgement that I have grown to regret immensely. Going to the doctor’s office ( not a mistake ), I reported the abusive incident that caused the injury. I want to know what is on record. How do I request the record of the date of visit?

    • Jeff Crippen

      selah – well, you could still go to the police. Report the crime. Then the prosecutor can subpoena the clinic records AND he can subpoena the pastor and his wife to testify. I wonder if, besides that, you could just ask the clinic for a copy of your file?

    • Ann

      Selah,

      I’ve requested copies of medical records and received them. They just might charge you to copy them.

  5. Brenda R

    This is all very wise. I would add that even an acquaintance or neighbor that you feel is capable of abuse to keep accounts in your diary. You don’t know when it will come necessary to have these accounts for easy access.

  6. joyisnowfree

    I have a thick folder with documentations. My lawyer said that if he ever shows up for whatever reason and even if it’s for half a minute, that the authorities need to be called for the sake of documentation. In the long run, it’s for the safety of the victim.

  7. survivorthrivor2

    I wish I had documented all the abuse over a 33 year marriage in a journal. I suppose I could recall most of it and write it down, but I won’t. He knows, I know, and God knows. I will leave it there. But, I do agree that one should, absolutely.

    My situation was different, though, as far as calling the police. My stbx was a firefighter, and at least in our community they have each others backs. There was a violent incident one particular time, our neighbors called the police and when they came to the door, he acted so innocent and totally calm and reasonable, I proved what he had done and he was put in handcuffs and they were taking him to jail. I was so relieved! Then he told them to reach in his pocket and the police pulled out his badge for the fire dept., they talked amongst themselves a few minutes, next thing I knew, the handcuffs were being taken off – he wasn’t going anywhere. They left him home with me and the kids, who were small but, still aware. I’ll never forget that feeling as long as I live! I was horrified! How could the police do that to me and the kids? I showed them what he had done!

    I don’t really even remember the rest of the evening, but I was punished for a very, very, long time after that. Guess what for? For just standing there and not telling the police officers that everything was fine and not to put the cuffs on him! I was berated for being a horrible wife and just standing there, doing nothing to defend him, especially in front of the kids! I did not even have law enforcement on my side, such a scary thought, I really had nowhere to turn, so I went back in my shell and the abuse continued and probably got worse. I knew better, always, in the back of my mind and in my heart, but when you’re in it, I describe it, looking back, it’s as if you are in a tsunami. You have no idea which way to go, how to go, where to go, what’s up or down, and there are all these things coming at you that you can’t even describe or make sense of and the feeling is constant confusion and danger.

    If you haven’t seen the movie “The Impossible” which is based on a true story of a family that experienced the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, it is well worth seeing. There are so many insights that parallel living with an abuser; plus strength, survival and courage to take your life back.

    • Survivorthrivor2, my heart was in my mouth as I read your story. I knew what was coming — that the police would betray you for their fellow emergency services worker — but it still gutted me when I read it.

      Thank you so much for sharing this account here. I hope it helps other readers. I have read accounts of victims whose husbands were in the police force and how hard they found it to disclose and get help. And I’ve also read an account by a female police officer who was being abused by her police officer husband. She said that in her job she attended lots of ‘domestics’ and did her professional duty well, and never connected the dots to what was happening in her home, until one day on the job at a domestic abuse call-out, she said to the female victim, “You don’t have to put up with this” — and she heard herself and realised it applied to her too. From there, she took steps to leave her abusive husband.

      I think stories like yours are precious. They show how very marginalized victims are, and how automatically the boy’s club links arms and sides with male abusers. I take my hat off to you for getting free from your abuser!

    • Still Reforming

      survivorthrivor2,

      Thank you for adding those words “plus strength, survival, and courage to take your life back.” Although our stories differ, right now I am in that tsunami. Law doesn’t seem to be on the side of the targets in our situation (child and me), but on the side of the bully. I feel swept under and caught in the tow of the undercurrent pulling me forcefully below the water’s surface. It seems like justice won’t occur until I’m on the other side of Glory, and I don’t know how to tread water with a spouse splashing me in the face with water every time I surface to take a breath. Your words help me to know that there is hope. As do the words of Barbara, Jeff, and those who have walked this path before. Thank you.

  8. H

    Barb and Pastor Jeff, are there any posts on theologically whether we should press charges against our abusers or not? (I’ve been looking but I don’t see any…) I’m in a position right now where I’m separated and relatively safe, I have the support of my church and will be pursuing a divorce soon and potentially a restraining order if necessary during/after the divorce process. But I’m going back and forth on the question of whether I should expose my abuser to the authorities. I don’t have a lot of evidence and I’m not sure how it would turn out, but he certainly did commit criminal acts against me. Since I’m not currently threatened, and I seem to be on my way to freedom, and I rest in the justice that God will eventually enact, should I just leave it at that? I’m not sure morally what would be the right thing to do. I read (and proofread) court cases for a living, and I read a lot of DV proceedings. It often makes me wonder whether I should be pursuing further justice on this earth.

    • Jeff Crippen

      H – Barbara has a better memory than I do so perhaps she will know. But in my opinion, I think a victim should follow the path that will be the safest and lead to freedom the soonest. Some abusers have their evil fuel cells re-charged by criminal action. This is the dilemma when it comes to getting restraining orders (orders of protection). Sometimes they help, sometimes they enrage. Of course if the crimes committed are of such gravity (molestation or assault of a child for instance) that to not report them would be to invite repeats of the same dastardly evils against other victims, then surely they must be reported. But largely I think you are the one to answer the question in your own case. Will reporting and prosecuting them result in further protection for you or not? That sort of thing.

      Morally, you have to wrestle with the issue of another woman he chooses to harm in the future as well. If an abuser for example has sodomized his victim, or committed felonious assault that threatened life and limb, then those actions come under the criminal code. Is it possible that if he is charged and convicted and sentenced to prison that others would be protected? Those are, as you say, the questions to be addressed. But sometimes we are best to let justice go if not going after it now means an increased level of safety for ourselves and children.

    • H, I don’t think we have any posts on the theological reasons for pressing charges or not pressing charges.

      I agree with everything Jeff C said in his reply to you. And I think biblical precepts allow for each victim of abuse to weigh up the question and decide\ for herself/himself, whether or not to press charges or seek a protection order.

      It is not biblically wrong to press charges or seek a protection order when you are the victim of abuse. Romans 13 tells us that in the New Testament era God has ordained that the secular courts exercise the ‘power of the sword’ to restrain and punish evildoers and protect the vulnerable. But biblical principles also call us to be wise to protect ourselves and not foolishly expose ourselves to danger. Abusers fall on a spectrum. Many abusers are restrained at least to some extent by things like protection orders. The extreme abusers are not restrained at all by protection orders. If you are unsure what your level of risk you might be under from your abuser, you might like to check out the links on our Safety Planning resources page. Domestic abuse professionals ought to be able to help you assess your level of risk and provide you with info that will help you make the decision whether or not to report your abuser’s crimes to the authorities.

      And if you do report the crimes to the authorities, be prepared for the justice system to say to you ‘There’s not enough evidence. We can’t lay charges.’ Or ‘It was only a ‘minor’ breach of the protection order; we can’t take any further action.’ Or any number of similar brushoffs/ excuses/ legislative or systemic reasons why they won’t be taking the matter further. I say “be prepared” to warn you, so taht you don’t get too disappointed if that happens.

      But if you do report the crimes and the secular justice system doesn’t take much action, or takes some action but it ends up a fizzer anyway, then you can still be confident that God will bring justice in the end.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: