A Cry For Justice

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

Thurday Thought — Good Quote on Why Couples Counseling is Wrong for Abuse Cases

The following is quoted from Ruth Tucker’s new book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife (Zondervan):

Couples counseling or marriage counseling is never an appropriate strategy to address abusive behavior — especially domestic violence,’ writes Terry Moore, a licensed clinical addiction counselor. ‘Resolving the kind of conflicts between people for which couples counseling is intended will not stop one person from abusing the other. Conflict is a pretext for abuse, not a cause of it.’ Having since read up on the subject, these statements sound so obvious. Why wouldn’t I as a smart, educated woman have recognized these truths to be self-evident — for my own declaration of independence?

What Moore writes is so elementary and obvious that I’m almost embarrassed to quote it: ‘Couples counseling depends upon an open dialogue between partners…People who are being hit, intimidated, or controlled through threats or other coercive means by their partners are not free to engage in open dialogue.’ But I wasn’t the only one back then, and even today, who was entirely clueless on this critical matter.

 

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16 Comments

  1. 50&free

    “People who are being hit, intimidated, or controlled through threats or other coercive means by their partners are not free to engage in open dialogue.” So true! And the abuser is not interested in open dialogue. He or she is interested in how he or she can use couples counseling to further threaten, control, intimidate, and coerce.

  2. Ng

    It is the same with every bully – their goal is to have more influence and power. That is why teachers at school systems have a hard time helping victims: too often, the bully and the victims are forced to sit around the same table, discuss the situation and shake hands. That is not enough to deter a bully: he/she will continue the game as long as there are no serious consequences.
    At workplaces, such behavior would not be tolerated, and lawyers would quickly sue bullies for their criminal acts. Law inforcement officials would be called in to intervene. It is only in schools and domestic situations where abuse can continue unchecked. So wrong!

    • Stronger Now

      Ng – I was the victim of workplace bullying and I can assure you my co-worker was never called to account. Many people in the workplace, including my immediate supervisor, saw what was going on and nobody did anything to stop her. Finally, I found another job and left. Soon, she found another target, and relentlessly attacked her until she was forced to leave as well. The bully is still working there. Nobody is going to sue her or the company, because it would be impossible to prove anything.

      • Anonymous

        Ng,
        There are websites that address bullying in the workplace and the late author Tim Field from the UK has a website with a lot of useful information. I’m so proud of you StrongerNow for being brave enough to get out of there! Bullying in the workplace is extremely common.

      • Ng

        I’m very sorry to her that, Stronger Now! Yes, bullies are everywhere…
        Still, very surprised that no one could do anything – but that at least is a theoretical option.
        While workplace bullying and harassment does happen in my country (a lot…), there are certain routes to approach the situation. At least, the bully is not free to cause physical damage. At schools, the victim rarely has anyone to turn to, and the bullies don’t even have to pay for the destroyed property…
        I saw some excellent ads recently that highlighted the problem, comparing school with workplace. As someone who was brutally bullied all throughout my compulsory school years, no one certainly tried to help me, because the bullies were the popular and social ones..
        Of course the bullyijng mentaility continues at all levels, but the tactcts change and the bullies cannot so easily call their co-workers ‘b*itches* and *w***es*.

  3. Brenda R

    I am currently reading this book. I am so glad that I know that she is safe in the end.

  4. Seeing Clearly

    In 10+ years of marriage counseling (3 different (c)hristian professional counselors) no one caught on that I was existing in an abusive relationship. I did tell one in confidentiality and he ignored the truth. The thing is, my ex could work a crowd and he could work a session. We should never, never have been in a counseling room together. A 4th professional that we sat with for the last 2 sessions ever, tried to back him in a letter during the divorce. Those 2 sessions were the last convincing piece to the puzzle that I had better get out of the marriage immediately. Today, as I recall the energy drain, PTSD, depression, wasted commitment to keep appts,, money spent, etc., I begin shaking and well up in tears.

    Not one professional, not even my personal therapist, advised me to stop due to the fact that a person in an abusive relationship should never, ever be in couples counseling. How can this be?

    Now 5+ yrs past divorce, I experience moments of grief creeping in as I continue to heal and grieve the many losses in my life and missed memories with my children in those 10+ years. It is not just the time spent in the session, it is the days of recovery required to regroup afterwards in preparation to head in to the next weekly session. The morning after, I would awake to the alarm, put on my professional mask and head back into my work world. Many of those days, I was still in shock when I walked onto the job at 8 a.m.. Yes, I did eventually go on disability because of depression and anxiety to name the mildest form of illnesses.

    • Anonymous

      Carol, Thank you for describing the horror and abuse of marriage counseling with an abuser and its aftereffects. We too went through numerous counselors and my husband got better and better at his shtick. The last time he tried to (once again) force me to go, he added an extra punch. He insisted that I find the counselor–thus ensuring the blame was mine if it didn’t work out. It was a form of making me walk the plank with my hands tied behind my back–but FIRST I needed to chop down the tree with a hand-saw, file down the wood with a file, install the plank on the ship making sure it would be sturdy enough to withstand my weight, so that I could then walk it to my death thus proving my guilt and shame. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. He had threatened to divorce me and leave me destitute–but the thought of it so defeated me (I was more terrified of counseling than being left destitute–THIS is how bad it was) that I told him then he’d have to divorce me. It’s been years now since that time and he has stopped talking about it.

      None of the counselors we went to Christian. The problem exists both in and out of the church but from what I’ve read here, there’s probably a better chance of finding qualified counselors outside the church if you look for those who specialize in helping victims of abusers.

      My husband actually “told” me what he was early in our marriage but I had not idea what a red flag was. He had been to an alcohol rehab program before we were married and he bragged about how he learned to manipulate the doctor who ran the main group. He bragged how he would use the doctor’s own questions to trap him and then force him to agree with my husband or eat his words. Games. Control. Manipulation. My husband got better and better and the system did nothing but encourage him. One of my husbands mantras was, “Deny! Deny! Deny! And if you get to the point that they had you boxed in–come up with a lie. This was his way of dealing with everything including his wife and children. I’m so glad the church tells us that it is God’s plan to stay married to these people instead of forewarning us that they exist and helping us discern, thus avoiding going through all this. Yeah, right!

  5. For Too Long

    Last year, when I first began to get out of the fog, our church forced us into their counseling program (I had been on staff and they really left me no choice – though by that time my mind was made up that I was done with the marriage.) Pretty much right away I sensed that the counseling was going to be empowering to my husband. I sat in a room full of men who joked with each other – man talk – while waiting for my husband to arrive. Once we began, after some preliminaries about why we were all there, my husband was forced to acknowledge his sin and ask forgiveness. (Never mind true repentance.) What followed was an admission of some generalities – “I wasn’t there for her and the kids much of the time.” “Sometimes I was a little short with my wife when I was under stress from work,” etc. It seemed the word “abuse” wasn’t necessary at all. When I tried to bring it up, it was drastically downplayed – one elder acting like I was speaking out of turn. Then I was “confronted” with the fact that my husband had just asked forgiveness, now what was my Biblical response to be to that? Of course. I was supposed to forgive him….Holding hands. Yes, they actually made me hold hands with someone who just faked his way through an apology while having to say, “I forgive you,” through gritted teeth. Inside I was dying; I was so sickened. I was so invalidated. Twenty-three years of abuse wrapped up in five minutes and now we could all go home happy.

    After that day, I showed up maybe three more times. It became sin-leveling sessions and I stopped cooperating. During this time the emotional and financial abuse ramped up; they pooh-poohed that, too, when I reported it – making my husband promise to move the tens of thousands of dollars back to our joint account. He did move it back, but then a week later took it once more, leaving me nothing. Their solution? Making him split the money with me so we could each have our own account.

    Soon after, I was not only done with the counseling but the church also. I had already been asked to turn in my keys and my computer from my job at the church, so I just stopped going. Now here we are, almost a year later and my husband is still a member in good-standing, enjoying the support of his sympathizers, and I will be publicly ex-communicated in three weeks. So, my opinion of couples counseling for abuse situations? It’s possibly the worst thing for such situations and may actually result in the further victimization of the victim.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Excellent insight here! What wickedness you have faced! It is an honor to be put out of a “church” that Jesus left long ago. Be free.

      • For Too Long

        Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate your words. My “take-away’ from the whole ordeal is that sometimes pastors and elders can have the same attitude as abusers – control, devaluing, and the power-over mentality.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Yes, FTL, some do have the same attitudes as abusers. Those attitudes stem from their hearts so they are abusers as well.

  6. healinginhim

    Thank you for posting this and thank you to the commenters; I gain so much from hearing what others share.

  7. Annie

    For some reason I’d always suspected counseling would be a bad thing to do. Not sure why but that was my gut feeling–I suppose it was due to the fact that I knew my husband could lie and appear to be a great guy if he wanted, etc. Once when we had a huge argument started by him one of the kids called his parents thinking they could reason with him. For their part they got on the counseling bandwagon and kept insisting we do that. I played along saying that would be great. I knew if I didn’t agree I’d be made out to be the difficult one. To my surprise my husband didn’t want to go! He told his parents and me his convoluted reasons. He doesn’t have any idea how glad I was he didn’t want to go. I’m guessing he was afraid of someone actually hearing my side of the story. So in the alternative he found some preacher online who with his wife sells counseling programs and does speaking tours. I wish I remembered his name. He wanted me to do the program. Guess what? It’s all about how the woman has to learn to understand her man by doing what he needs! LOL I read the reviews on Amazon. I wouldn’t get within a hundred miles of that program. I refused and it made him mad that I wasn’t willing to work with him! The Lord was looking after me and gave me the strength to stand firm about it because reading everyone’s accounts of counseling here I’m sure our do-it-yourself-sessions would have been a disaster too. My husband kept telling me if I would just do the things he wanted all would be well.

  8. Kay

    “Conflict is a pretext for abuse, not a cause of it.”

    And conflict, I might add, is usually set up by the abuser. He sets up his victim so that he has an excuse to abuse her. I remember having couples counseling with my pastor. My husband’s posture and facial expressions were so intimidating to me that I stuttered during the session. The pastor said that my inability to speak was evidence of sin in my life. My husband had originally gone to our pastor (he was a new pastor at the time) to complain about me; they became best of friends. Later, we learned how this pastor had used all kinds of abusive tactics to take out the previous pastor. My former pastor was the one who had established the church and we had been with him for twenty years. (His church had been an absolute shelter for me.) The new pastor had been dismissed from the staff years earlier and had come back, supposedly as a reformed man. The people who put him in as pastor quietly left the church when they discovered that he hadn’t really changed. I know this for a fact because I interviewed them. A board member told me of the fits of rage the new pastor had every time he didn’t get his way. Eventually, the board asked him to resign. These things nearly destroyed our church. But then, that’s what abusers do. They divide and destroy.

    My former pastor now works with refugees and helps to find shelter for refugee women who are victims of abuse.

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