A Cry For Justice

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

Stop saying “Divorce causes broken homes.” Just stop it.

Morpheus divorce

This was a comment posted on our Facebook page by our friend Juliette.

Divorce often occurs when targets of abuse (with their children) LEAVE the “broken home.” A “broken home” in which they have bravely STAYED, with passionate hope for healing – for way too long!! A “broken home” which is making the targets ill, mentally fragmented and soulfully crushed. Once they leave and begin to recover and heal…the home is ~no longer broken~… it is in God’s hands and the home is experiencing restoration and healing. The targets might always, always love, miss and pray for the “person” they needed to leave. But it is good that they decided they would no longer endure something that was killing and robbing them every single day.

Stop telling a target of abuse that her children are destined to be a statistic of “ruined children in broken homes because of divorce” because she’s chosen to leave and raise them in a “broken home.” No!! She  l-e-f-t  the “broken home”… and is building a NEW HOME. A home with life and healing, joy and fresh air, new beginnings and good things!!! Her children get to find out what an amazing father God is… and the woman gets to discover what an incredible husband He is. They get to finally be a REAL HOME.

Further comments from Juliette’s friends:

I have heard it suggested (and my believing this is one reason #whyIstayed) that divorcing an abuser is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The frying pan scenario is the result of a false dichotomy fallacy. It assumes there are only two choices, the devil you know, or the devil you don’t. It’s like Debi Pearl asserting in Created to be His Help Meet that divorce results in living in a shabby duplex. What if the target of abuse gets good counselling, therapy, help, and hope? What if she isn’t the cause of the abuse? What if she learns to spot the red flags of abusers and stays away from them?

Concerning the statistics that paint a drab picture for the children of divorced parents:

The statistics are skewed and designed to make divorce the bad thing, not the evidence of it. They present numbers that claim that divorce causes kids to grow up in poverty. No, the deadbeat parent’s lack of provision causes that. Deadbeat dads were already not providing and the moms were covering it up because that’s what a Proverbs 31 wife does, right? But it’s easier to measure divorced deadbeats than married ones whose refusal to provide (making him worse than an infidel, BTW) was hidden by a “submissive” wife’s trying to make stone soup last a month.

Divorce doesn’t prevent a father from providing. It often just reveals the fact that he never did. Not all abusers utilize financial abuse, it’s just the one thing the statistics focus on because it’s easily measured. But even then, divorce is painted as the culprit instead of the one who is “worse than an infidel.” There’s nothing preventing a parent from providing MORE than what the courts mandate. I know of fathers who have/do. The problem isn’t the divorce. Divorce calls attention to the problem.

Eliminating divorce doesn’t eliminate the problem any more than removing the batteries from a smoke detector, thus silencing the warning signal, puts out a fire.

To divorce an abuser is not to break up the home. To divorce an abuser is to ask society to recognize the fact that the home was broken.

36 Comments

  1. AMEN!

  2. joepote01

    Very good article…very well written!

    “Divorce is not the cause of a broken home, but the result of it.”

    Such an obvious truth…yet so easy to miss by those of us raised in traditional evangelical churches where the divorce mythology is widely accepted as truth.

    Divorce statistics misused in sermons are one of my pet peeves. You might enjoy this post on my blog: http://josephjpote.com/2013/10/no-more-sermon-stats/

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Suzanne

      I can’t help but think that abuse would be far less prevalent if victims were able to leave their broken marriages early on with the help and support of their sisters and brothers in Christ. It’s ironic that instead of working for the perpetuation of godly marriages the current attitudes toward divorce in the body of Christ instead enable abusers to continue to destroy the marriage covenant. They are enabling the very thing they claim to be against.

      • joepote01

        I agree, Suzanne!

        I strongly suspect that the popular divorce mythology inadvertently sanctions abuse, thereby leading to more divorces…at a terrible cost to abuse targets during the intervening years prior to divorce.

        I’ve seen some stats that seem to support this perspective, showing state-by-state and even county-by-county divorce rates tend to be higher in areas with stronger influence of evangelical churches.

        I’d like to see a study that also correlated that to rates of reported abuse.

        I continue to be astounded at how blind the church, overall, is in this area. The divorce mythology is incredibly blinding and surprisingly difficult to get past.

  3. renmar

    I am feeling the need to say “Amen” to this post! This has been one of my soap boxes since my divorce. I listen to the stats about the emotional/relational harm done to children of divorce and think of my own experience growing up in an “unbroken” home. All that the “experts” say about the effects of divorce on kids I experienced – and my parents never divorced!

    I have four children, same father, two adults and two still school aged, with a large gap between the two sets of kids. Two grew up with father and mother in the house. The other two are growing up in a “broken” home. Before the divorce, as God was leading me to it and I was greatly struggling with it, I cried out to Him that I would stay, even if it killed me, before I would harm those kids by leaving (the effects of exactly the kind of propaganda you are talking about in this article). I struggled with Him for hours, more than once. He assured me that the divorce would be for the good of my kids as well as for my good. Eventually, I was at the place where I could move forward with divorce. That was a few years ago.

    Guess what? I am watching God fulfill what He promised me in regards to all of us! Among other things, my younger kids are learning how to deal with conflict, recognize manipulation, live in the freedom of being who God created them to be (at least when they are with me, though my ex is learning, slowly, how to be more respectful and considerate with them). God protected my homeschooling so even though we have a 50/50 arrangement I have them the majority of the time and therefore, they experience that freedom the majority of the time. I can see how my children who live in the “broken” home are becoming emotionally/relationally healthier than my children who grew up in the “unbroken” home. They will have less to overcome and heal from as adults than the rest of us. And God has graciously given me some glimpses of the positive effects of my divorce on my older kids as, it seems to me, not so much is taken for granted in their relationships and they are working harder at them.

    Yes, there are effects on all of us, but we live in a broken, sinful world. We aren’t in Heaven yet. I tell my kids that if it wasn’t divorce it would be something else difficult we’d have to live and work through. For us, much has changed for the good as a result of divorce. Our “broken” home is truly unbroken! We are healthier than we’ve ever been, by the grace of God.

    Though the road of divorce is not easy, and I know some of you have had a much, much more difficult road than I have, God is good and faithful in all the yuck we deal with!

  4. Suzanne

    Deadbeat dads were already not providing and the moms were covering it up…

    My father gave us a roof over over heads, nothing more. He would see us go hungry and shoeless and not feel an ounce of obligation or compassion. My mother and her parents worked long and hard to provide for us and the strain killed my grandfather while he was still relatively young. It infuriates me to this day. My mother always claimed she couldn’t divorce because she had no way to provide for us and no confidence the courts could force my father to pay child support since he would just move out of state. She may have been correct; the law at that time didn’t pursue non-paying parents the way it does today. Still, I wish she had tried. Watching her suffer his abuse for 6 decades was excruciating. I wish that every young woman would be encouraged to maintain some measure of financial independence during her marriage so that if she needed money to flee abuse it would be there and she and her children wouldn’t be forced to live in poverty.

  5. The frying pan scenario, the shabby duplex (had Pearl’s book, but tossed it–everything was about the wife making the marriage heaven on earth—she’s never lived with an abuser), and the statistics (had a book on that too) all influenced my thinking and instilled a mentality that leaving led to deaths of all kinds. 30 years of staying and now still fearing the poverty (because of age and poor health) getting a good paying job is out of my grasp unless God intervenes. Even then I see He doesn’t always. The laws in this state are very pro man. Reading the laws and how the court has traditional applied them to women in divorces has left me knowing I will have little to no temporary or permanent support. Staying is a dead end, leaving too. I wish I felt hopeful, but right now I don’t.

    • Ellie

      she’s never lived with an abuser

      I’m not so sure about that. The illustration in Created to be His Help Meet where Mike misses the trash dumpster and runs off in shame leaving her to clean it up is a classic CLASSIC example of shame dumping narcissist behavior.

      • Sunflower

        I was thinking the same thing. She describes Michael as a ‘Command Man’, and that description doesn’t sound like fun to me. And the way he raised his children……..??

      • StandsWithAFist

        Thanks, Ellie, for reminding me about shame dumping. This is a little off-topic, but ties in to scripture-twisting & spiritual abuse. This last week a lay teacher at church actually taught that when Romans says “all have sinned”, that we as Christians are no better than ISIS & terrorists. I was horrified by this analogy, & it came off as sin-leveling, but when I protested, he challenged me in front of an entire room by asking “do you think YOU are better then ISIS?” I responded by saying that I am absolutely a sinner in need of Jesus, but while evil is always sin, not all sins are evil. He then mocked me & said “so you think you are better than ISIS?” By this time I was a little ticked, so I said “Yes, I do. There is a difference between sin & evil”. This particular teacher is never wrong, very controlling, & a red flag was waving in my head. He was teaching a group of impressionable young people that “we” are the “they” that Paul is speaking of in Romans 1:18-32. He was shame dumping (!) insisting that these young people agree that “they” are who Paul is talking about. But Paul was clearly referring to those who intentionally rejected God & worshipped the creature rather than Creator and were w/o excuse. Believe me, I am a sinner, I need Jesus for my every breath, but there is a HUGE difference between me and a cruel terrorist who is using his religion to abuse, oppress & control for his own pleasure. But, if am off base I want to know. Ps Jeff, do you agree there is a difference between evil & sin?

      • Ellie

        Matthew 24:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

        Not all sins are equal. I don’t know how God works this out. But he says it many times in His word.

      • Hi StandsWithAFist,
        I’m leaving the question of whether there is a difference between evil and sin to Jeff Crippen.

        But you or other readers might find it helpful to review this post:
        Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

        Also, if you are going to brave a continuing debate with this pastor, you might be able to strengthen your arguments by listening to Martin Lloyd Jones’s sermons on that section of Romans. Go here to find the relevant sermons.

      • I agree Ellie. I think she has lived with an abuser, but just doesn’t or didn’t realise that was what it was called. Like most of us, the fog kept us blind for a long time, and we desperately sought other explanations and labels for what was going on in our marriages.

      • StandsWithAFist

        Thank you Barbara & Ellie & all posters for your responses. Barbara–thank you sooo much for the links & for MLJ’s sermons on Romans. Have already begun to listen to them, and the Westminster Catechism was so very helpful. I do not want to err on this topic, and yet this teacher seemed to be engaging in name-calling and guilt-tripping in a way that felt abusive and errant from the context Paul intended. I love God’s word and deeply desire to know His truth, not the church’s version.
        Thank you for your wise counsel about debating with this teacher. He is known to be one who cuts off discussion rather than to dig deeper and risk being “wrong”, and he does not seek counsel himself prior to showcasing ‘this or that’. Several times I have sent links from ACFJ, and he ignores them, never responding. Never.
        I have not spoken to the pastor who “shepherds” him, b/c of the super-pastor syndrome going on…beginning to sense the stirrings of needing to find another place. Sigh……

    • Sunflower’s “Command man” comment reminded me just how much I dislike the categorizing the Pearls do for men and women. Another box to put in. More rules to follow. Stop getting people to focus on all that mumbo jumbo! The real questions are, is that person godly and is he someone I desire in my life?

      • marriedwithouthusband

        According to M. Scott Peck, whose book on evil I’m currently reading, everyone sins, but evil people do not acknowledge their sins. I think that’s a good workable definition of “evil.”

  6. Brenda R

    To divorce an abuser is not to break up the home. To divorce an abuser is to ask society to recognize the fact that the home was broken.

    This is so true and going in my response list. I know all about the dead beat dad who spent most of his paycheck before he made it home, while I used what little I brought in from baby sitting to feed the kids. He finally finished paying what he owed in child support a couple of years ago when my daughter was 30+. I never say our daughter, he was as she says,”the sperm donor.” The home was broken long before the divorce.

  7. Lyckliga Lisa

    I’ve started to love this blog. It´s so refreshing.
    I’m from Sweden and belong to an evangelical church. Because I’m living in a big town it has been possible for me to getting through my divorce from my abuser without misjudging pastors. But I´ve met them, specially in the countryside, and it make me sad to hear that their opinion is that I just must forgive and stay for Christ’s sake.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Welcome, Lyckliga Lisa! Wonderful that you found us.

  8. LH

    Amen!

    My oldest daughter was broken in the “unbroken” home, my younger daughter is strong and emotionally healthy because of a “broken” home where she no longer had to live with her dad’s abuse. I have seen how she – nicely – deals with some of his ‘stuff’ at family get-togethers and just thank God that I got her out in time.

  9. Gah!! I have tried so hard to make my friends understand this; they just refuse to listen. My “dad” made somewhere around $115,000 in 2013, but now he and his lawyer are claiming that he made $50,000– cutting child support in half. Or thirds. All that money just “disappeared.” Never mind that medical bills and mortgage were costing about $50,000 by themselves…

    But then, we never seemed to have that much money anyways, because “Dad” would never give Mom any. He actually made her do free work for his business, and “paid” her for that. It was rarely more than a fraction of what we needed for the month, but she certainly wasn’t allowed to ask for more. Our house slowly fell apart, piece by piece, because we spent every cent he generously gave us on food, clothes, and bills.

    I cannot tell you how many times she had finally saved up enough money to take us to the beach for the day, or on a hike in the mountains– only to discover at the last minute that he had refused to pay the garbage or electricity, or the pipes had burst, or someone needed a trip to the emergency room. That would be the end of our only hope for a vacation.

    Occasionally we went someplace anyways, because we were all going stir-crazy. Usually we sacrificed something for it, though: a neat school curriculum, or a check-up at the dentist. Funny, though, there was plenty of money whenever he was in one of his love bombing phases. He took me hundreds of miles on a day trip once, just so I could explore a ghost town. I really had wanted to do that with Mom, but as soon as he heard about it, it became His Thing. That trip was also the scene of the scariest thing he ever did in the car.

    Kind of a long comment, but this really touched a nerve.

  10. Healinginprocess

    Very well written!!!

  11. Moving Forward

    I so appreciate how this blog gives me words when I am facing criticisms like this. It sure is work to turn my mind around from years of church/abuser conditioning to the truth of things.

  12. Still Reforming

    Following…. (to receive comments). Excellent post. I couldn’t agree more.

  13. Beautiful Mess Called Life

    Thank you so much for this! It comes at just the right time for me, as my own abuser is using some of these excuses against me. He has actually told friends (and indirectly told me through those friends) that I am doing more harm to the kids by keeping them away from him than I would be by allowing us to come back together and live as a family again. Yes, they are struggling with the separation and starting to ask a lot of questions about what happened and why he isn’t around, but it is part of the healing process for them and we can move past it. Questions, though hard, I can handle. Them being hurt, I cannot tolerate.

  14. So well said – thank you.

  15. Rebecca

    So glad I found this article today. Spot on, thanks for posting it. It is a breath of fresh air to me.

  16. rhonda

    Perfect. Just perfect. Insightful and beautifully articulated. Thank you!

  17. Innoscent

    I agree, brilliant post! Well written. I don’t know why people fail to go to / think of the cause of the problem, just like with many alcoholic people who drink because there is an underlying problem. My mum and one of my sisters ended up drinking at some stage of the abuse they were going through. Not that this is an excuse to drink but one can understand that alcoholism is not the root cause.

    One buys a product and finds later on that it is not working like it should and is even becoming dangerous to use, you know the latent defect in a manufactured product, or the abuser in a marriage… 😦

  18. Reachingfortheprize

    I’ve been hearing over and over that the kids will not be healthy people unless their biological father is actively involved with them.

    So based on this falacy, Father is contacting all the doctors of the disabled kids and asking if the stuff going on isn’t just because mom and Father aren’t living together with the kids. Well, the doctors aren’t positive that what is wrong with the kids is medical, they discredit everything mom has said in favor of Father not sure that there really is a medical reason for their behavior. Because we know that Father has a better grasp of what is going on and is more logical because he is a guy. (We all know how emotional girls can be.). And regardless that Father has not had a desire to know the kids EVER even with visitation and has no knowledge about what is going on. (It is all about kids seeing Father not about relationship.)
    Gasp. Eye roll. Trigger.

  19. Torn 2 Peaces

    Amen! Just because all are living in a house, it does not mean that it’s not a broken home.

  20. Scaredmomma

    So thankful for this site. One of my children asked me. Mom aren’t you sinning by divorcing dad. He has made a big deal that the divorce is my fault. I am doing to him. I told yes and no. When you marry, you make a promise to God, your church, family and friends to love, honor and respect. If you are fighting all the time that breaks that promise. And, people are hurt ( emotional) from fighting so the fighting also is a sin. So it’s not divorce that is the sin, it’s the fighting and disrespect that is the sin. She understands too well where the blame fall for fighting and disrespect. She actually is reason I got up the guts to file for divorce, I could not take it when he started verbally assaulting her. Too bad in this crazy world she will still be required to spend time with him.

  21. Anonymous

    Thank you for saying what I have struggled to convey to people who don’t get it. After a handful of DIFFERENT marriage counselors, many children (10 total), and many different churches and many moves (houses)… not to mention the multitude of mixed messages – you need to stay, you need to pray more, you’re not submissive enough, leave, stay, pray, repent, get out… I finally left after 25 years.

    And all those that said leave… left me when I finally escaped. Said I was now in sin.

    Maybe so, but I am free. I had a friend remind me that marriage is a covenant and that while I continued to honor that covenant, he had broken covenant YEARS before I had ever left.

    He was a deadbeat when we were married (ex: budget to feed around 10 people – $100/week. Cash. I had no check book or credit card. I had to show my receipt and prove that I did not buy anything sinful. Meals were “lessons” on the cost of feeding such a large family. My kids should never have been exposed, but they were. He is still a deadbeat – telling the kids that I am the rich one (yeah, ok) who took all his money (which is why he has more than one new vehicle, travels, and has a $$$$/hr attorney. LOL!

    My older children believe that their dad was the victim and that I am the evil one – even to the point that they testified against me in court, are convinced that I divorced him (he had already had papers drawn up before I ever left and had me served within 5 days of leaving), he tells the younger ones that if they don’t comply with visitation he will have me thrown in jail (they are in high school), and all his rigid religious rules – yeah, they are no more.

    I may live below poverty level, but I am several years free. My younger children are thriving and happy. I have gone back to college and gotten my degree, and I am happy. We are court ordered to live in a certain rural county, until the kids finish school. While he may have thought he was isolating us, we have grown and have been surrounded by love and encouragement by the community that we live in. I don’t know if I will marry again – it is hard to trust any man who claims to be a Christian (I was married to one who was really evil in a Christian mask). Thank you again.

    • Hi Anonymous, welcome to the blog 🙂
      I airbrushed some details in your comment to protect you from being identified. I also changed your screen name to Anonymous as you had given you real name. If you wish to use a different screen name, please email twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      And please read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      I think your story will be an encouragement to some of our readers who are worried how they will survive if they leave their abusers.

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  1. Stop Saying “Divorce Causes Broken Homes.”

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