A Cry For Justice

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

Proverbs 18:17 — A Verse often Misused to Hurt Abuse Victims

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17) 

This is, of course, the Word of God. Therefore it is true. But I very much suspect that many of you have had this verse used against you when you went to someone in your church for help. I know that we at ACFJ have had critics, especially the patriarchal crowd, start quoting this verse to us when we talk about the importance of believing a victim.  “Oh yeah, right,” they object. “The Bible says that we are not to take the claims of the first person making an accusation, but we are to wait to hear the accused. Sounds all well and good, right? It isn’t.

Let me explain something that is vitally important for us to get a firm grasp on. It is one of those truths that just jumps out at you when you hear it, and you know it is true.  Here we go:

The abuse victim who reports the evil deeds of her abuser to someone is not the first to state her case. She is, in fact, “the other” who this Proverbs says comes later and “examines” the first accuser.

Who is the first accuser then that the first part of this Proverb says “seems right”?  I will tell you.  It is the abuser. Yep. “How can that be?” you ask? I will tell you! The abuser has constantly “stated his case” against his victim for a long, long time. Abusers accuse. Abusers tell people through outright accusation or through wicked, subtle innuendo and a variety of other evil tactics, that the victim is to blame. That the victim is stupid. That the victim is not submissive. That the victim is not a good mother. Abusers necessarily accuse their victim to others. They are the ones who “state their case first.” And guess what? The same people who are all jumping up and down about us believing the victim and citing this Proverb to us, are the very ones violating it! Why? Because they believe the abuser, and they have been believing him for a long time without ever listening to the victim’s case.  So let’s get it right:

“The abuser states his case first and seems right. But then the victim comes and examines him.” 

That is to say, the victim’s report of what really is going on refutes the abuser’s accusations.  And furthermore, anyone with real wisdom will realize this. Unfortunately it seems that there aren’t many people who are truly wise. Not even in the church.

So let’s just stop citing Proverbs 18:17 against the victim who finally, after a long time, starts to come out of the dark fog cast by abuse, starts seeing what is really happening to her, and comes forward to report it. Stop it. She is not the first to state a case. The abuser is. Many, many pastors and church leaders and Christians have some real confession to do here before the Lord, asking His forgiveness and asking for the forgiveness of victims they have wronged by believing the evil reports abusers so often make in order to discredit the victim and gain allies against her.

Am I right? Yes, I am right. And I can hardly wait for someone to distort this Proverb and try to use it against us again.  Not gonna work. Nope.

Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Psalms 119:12-16)

18 Comments

  1. healingInHim

    Thank you for posting another untwisting of Scripture. And Psalms 119:12-16 … AMEN!

    • Blessed are you, O LORD;
      teach me your statutes!
      With my lips I declare
      all the rules of your mouth.
      In the way of your testimonies I delight
      as much as in all riches.
      I will meditate on your precepts
      and fix my eyes on your ways.
      I will delight in your statutes;
      I will not forget your word.

      (Psalm 119:12-16 ESV)
      🙂

  2. LorenHaas

    Absolutely!
    Just as an abuser has abandoned the marriage by being chronically abusive. Filing a divorce against the abuser does not make you the one that ended the marriage.

  3. Innoscent

    I had never seen this verse from this angle, and it makes so much more sense now.

    This is just brilliant Jeff!
    “The same people who are all jumping up and down about us believing the victim and citing this Proverb to us, are the very ones violating it! Why? Because they believe the abuser, and they have been believing him for a long time without ever listening to the victim’s case.”
    How more perverse can the abuser be to manage to get the church behind him to accuse both the victim and her advocates!
    The 2 abusers in my life have now succeeded in rallying almost both our entire families against me when none but one of the siblings has ever asked me my version of the facts. The one who did had actually sided with the accuser and so any explanation was nipped in the bud. It is only by God’s grace I am retaining my sanity through this excruciating ordeal.
    Your advocacating for the true victims is immensely precious to me.

    • Innoscent

      The Bishop pointed to this blog in the comments below his article!!

      • Yes, and he personally told me by email that he was pointing his blog readers to the A Cry For Justice blog. 🙂
        That’s a man who cares and shows real courtesy!

  4. Some encouragement for us all:

    The Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, John Harrower, is taking a strong stand on domestic abuse.

    Listen up pastors! Bishop Harrower says:

    Our first step is to acknowledge that it can be our own discomfort as pastors that can help us collude with perpetrators into slick solutions, and pronouncing a rapid absolution. We also acknowledge that we need to insist that other professionals be called in, so that like Zacchaeus, the perpetrator gives legs to his sorry, by addressing what will help bring about change.”

    See the whole post here:
    http://imaginarydiocese.org/bishopjohn/2015/03/03/lets-make-domestic-violence-an-oxymoron/

    • Innoscent

      The Bishop pointed to this blog in the comments below his article!!

  5. joepote01

    Very good! Thank you, Jeff!

  6. SeeClearerNow (prev NotHeard)

    Jeff, this is precious balm to a raw wound..I didn’t realise how raw it was cause I’d tried to block it away, but your validation brought it back. I think it was so damaging because, even in the sense that they wanted to use it, they did the verse injustice: there was no ‘examination’, they just listened to my anti-husband’s lies and scratched up the verse as a reason to do: nothing at all. They used it as a weapon to silence, rather than the tool of truth that it should be!

    • Jeff Crippen

      SeeClearer – It really is good news, isn’t it? I know exactly how you feel. These wicked pharisaical types use these kinds of tactics to protect their buddies and hurt the innocent. It really does feel good to have their evil lies and distortions of God’s Word exposed. Thank you.

  7. Chris Hutchinson

    This is true in the case where the victim is a victim. And reports of violence by credible parties should be taken as credible as an investigation begins and measures of safety enacted as needed (e.g. calling the police). But to assume that every report is therefore true does indeed violate this verse. Some people do lie. I don’t think this verse is addressing crimes as much as it is interpersonal conflict that does not involve violence. So I think this untwisting needs some untwisting. But no, no credible charge should ever be dismissed by quoting just one verse of Scripture.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Chris- Yes. That is what we are saying. Believe victims. And when you study the nature of abuse and its effects and tactics, when you understand what it does to victims, you will recognize an abuse victim when they come to you. We are not saying that every conceivable report someone tells us is to be automatically believed – quite the contrary. That is our point when we say it is time to stop believing the abuser as so many churches are doing. We are talking though about abuse victims. When a person, usually a woman, comes to us reporting abuse she can and must be believed because the story will ring true to those who are wise. She will be hesitant to share her whole story. She will have endured it for years and years in most cases. She will feel guilt over speaking this way about her husband. She will be confused. She very often will have health problems. She is, in other words, an abuse victim. And abuse victims must be validated when they come to us.

  8. Anon

    The church is the only army that shoots its own troops.

    I learned this first hand. You can be innocent as a new born baby but consensus by a few can ruin your reputation and even deny you your rights in the church. This isn’t sexual abuse ~ it’s emotional abuse.

    • Welcome to the blog Anon (you’ll see I changed your screen name, to protect your identity).

      Yes, the consensus by a few who misconstrue or craftily misrepresent your situation can be devastating.

      I encourage you to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  9. Anonymous

    “He who lies to mom first.” This is how one guy put it. He lived by it too…he knew that it was much harder for a child to come in after the lie and accusation had been laid in mom’s lap about them, and then try to undo the damage. I see this behavior ALL the time in ALL situations in life. It’s often pointed out on this website but abusers know the tricks of the trade inherently. This is true across the board in all social stations, in all lands and countries across the entire world–evil ones know / learn young….how to manipulate people and how to alter perception. It is almost an art form—if satanic art is your thing–once you know about this form of evil, and are observing it from the outside. These people feel zero guilt / shame / remorse / sorrow when they manipulate and harm others. Quite the opposite. Duping delight is one term used to explain it. And when you absolutely refuse to allow them to “win” (to include others in the blame at least PARTIALLY if not TOTALLY) they get very angry.

    Jeff wrote: “Abusers accuse. Abusers tell people through outright accusation or through wicked, subtle innuendo and a variety of other evil tactics, that the victim is to blame. That the victim is stupid…….”

    I spent the entire day with my psychopathic husband recently. Using a different scenario but a similar premise, here’s how a conversation went. See if you can point out all the accusations. Feel free to keep a tally. Ready?

    Me: “Can you help me with this skin problem I have? I remember when you had it, you came up with some good ways of relieving the pain and helping it heal.”

    Him: “Well if you didn’t wear so much lotion / make-up / perfume or go out in the sun / hide from the sun / talk so much or not enough, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place!”

    Me: “So far I’ve tried soaking it in the solution I bought then dried it thoroughly and it was more irritated so I let it air dry for awhile longer and then applied……blah blah…,” listing the many things I had tried and the results of their application.

    Him: “You should have soaked it first THEN let it air dry…..” He simply listed the many things I had JUST told him but now he was taking away the credit I deserved for trying them and because HE was listing them, in his mind I had NEVER EVEN DONE THEM, which meant that I was stupid and inept.

    Me: “Okay, so I should do A first, then B, then C, and this should result in D?”

    Him: “What did I just tell you? Weren’t you even listening? How stupid are you? No wonder you have skin problems! It comes from not cleaning / cooking / keeping the dust off the furniture / grooming the pets / buying the right foods / drinking too much water / not drinking enough water / not exercising enough / doing the wrong kinds of exercises.” And the list goes on…often contradicting something he had just said and REALLY BELIEVING that I am to blame and that if I would just listen to him and serve him constantly, stay at his feet to hear every word…I would be problem FREE! So OF COURSE it’s my fault that I have skin problems / am tired / have PTSD / have a huge startle reflex……it’s all my fault and all I would need to do is to WORSHIP HIM the way that he wants to be worshiped each second, which changes all the time, and I would be happy and healthy blah blah….but I’m too stupid, too be able to do this properly so of course I have problems, am a loser, never …………..

    Thanks Jeff for being here with us.

    • “Duping delight” — what a great expression! It is the emotion behind the abuser’s smirk.

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