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)