A Cry For Justice

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

10. Victim care is vital – Chris Moles & other biblical counselors are falling short in this

Victim safety and wellbeing must be the fundamental guiding principle if you are counseling  abusive men or doing anything to hold them accountable and call them to reform.

It’s vital to put victim safety and wellbeing first. Any person or agency that works with abusive men must see the victim (not the abuser) as their real client. This is what No To Violence (NTV) says. They’re an organization which sets standards for Men’s Behavior Change Programs in Australia. And this principle which they uphold is consistent with Christianity.

The Bible tells tells us to remember the poor (Gal 2:10). And it tells us that we ought to prioritise those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10). 

Therefore, if Christians are to do good in field of domestic abuse, they must especially do good to those who are experiencing abuse in the body of Christ. And that means real Christians, not wolves masquerading as Christians, or leaders who are worried about losing friends and colleagues.

There are countless Christian women in the church who are being abused by their husbands and ex-husbands. 

If you think ACFJ is  ignoring male victims, please read our definition of abuse here and our resources for male victims.

Chris Moles’ approach to victim safety and wellbeing seems deficient in many areas

Chris Moles speaking at Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper’s old church)

  • Chris doesn’t appear to see the victim as his primary client.
  • He avoids discussing the doctrine of divorce.
  • He seldom mentions sexual abuse, even though it is a big part of domestic abuse
  • He disapproves of survivors having a victim-identity or victimhood status; so he pathologizes victims.
  • He wrongly judges what constitutes ‘sinful resistance’ from the victim.
  • He disparages the moral integrity of victims.
  • He allows victims to lament, but discourages them from venting.
  • His notions about suffering will hurt many victims.

In this post I will amplify the first three of those points. In the next post in this series, I will amplify the rest of the points.

Chris doesn’t seem to see the victim as his primary client

Chris would disagree with my statement. He believes he is doing this work to protect victims and future victims:

There is this mindset out there that abusive people can’t change and that we should just kick them out of the church. My question to that is always, “What about the next church?” And [that mindset says] we should remove them from the home. And my question to that is, “What about the next victim?” Because if we do victim care (which I’m all for) we help a victim, and I want to do that. But if we do really solid perpetrator work, then what happens if a man’s heart is changed? Then that victim’s safe and every subsequent victim is safe. (J*, emphasis added)

However, I have never heard Chris tell counselors and church leaders who are working with abusive men to contact the victim privately and regularly to invite her to articulate her perspective on her abuser and the abuser’s progress of change or lack thereof. But partner contact is vital.¹

So long as the victim is willing to give them her feedback, church leaders ought to be regularly inviting the victim to share her perspective on the abuser’s behavior and how it impacts on her (and children’s) wellbeing, and any changes she has noticed in the abuser’s behavior.

Chris does recommend that biblical counselors and church leaders consult with the woman’s advocate. But that’s not sufficient. These authority figures and power brokers need to be regularly checking in with the victim herself about any fears she has for her safety, and any things the abuser is doing which undermine her safety and wellbeing.

In the program run by his county’s probation department where Chris works part-time, there is a victim advocate that the men’s partners or ex-partners can be put in contact with. Perhaps that advocate checks in with the partners regularly (I don’t know). But I am not convinced Chris gives enough emphasis to the importance of partner contact. See the brief consultation which Chris describes here:

I believe it is imperative that the victim be aware of what I am teaching and asking of her husband. Therefore I would request contact with both her counselor and the victim’s advocate in order to provide them with progress reports and to receive feedback and recommendations from them. Counseling him in a bubble would be a mistake. (M 20) 

I would request a list of [the man’s] abusive behavior from the victim’s advocate. This could be a single conversation where the advocate takes notes or an inventory form. This would of course be completely voluntary on the victim’s part and would be confidential. This is not information I would share with [the abuser] directly as it could endanger his wife, but it would help me to see any patterns of behavior. (M 31)

Chris makes the assumption that all victim advocates and counselors are good. But what if the victim feels her advocate or her counselor don’t fully get it? What if the victim has sensed that her counselor/advocate is inexperienced, or not trustworthy, or doesn’t have enough time …so the victim isn’t disclosing all her concerns to the advocate?

All paid victim-advocates are run off their feet because the domestic abuse field is so dreadfully under-funded.

Thankfully, Chris Moles does tell church leaders that if they are considering church discipline or public declaration about the situation, they should make sure their proposed actions are consistent with the victim’s requests (C 1:06:45). And Chris says —

When appropriate, seek the victim’s consent and assistance. One element of victim safety is consulting with them prior to making decisions that may place them in additional danger. The victim knows the offender far better than you do. Confronting the abusive person, making public disclosures or public declaration, or any other premature intervention without the victim’s permission and a plan in place for her safety can be dangerous and foolish. The exceptions are of course in areas of mandated reporting such as child abuse/neglect, or if you believe the victim and other may be in immediate danger. (M 143)

However, the abuser will probably be hiding the extent of his abuse and covertly manipulating church leaders to shape their impressions.

So Chris’s advice to church leaders to consult with the victim is too little, too late.

Here’s an example of an abuser hiding his abuse from church leaders, taken from Chris’s book (M 15-16):

It was a court-ordered meeting, but the man seemed eager to discuss his circumstances. We spent several minutes talking about God, the Bible, and our place in the church. He explained to them [the other guys in the group] that he was once a youth leader in his local church and had stopped because of a busy schedule. He said he hoped to be involved in ministry again soon. He was faithful to attend church services and support the activities of the church, and he claimed his relationship with God was extremely close.

I raised a concern with him regarding his recent trouble with the law. This man had physically harmed, harassed, and stalked his wife over a year, during the same time in which he was a leader in his church. When I inquired how his church had responded to his violence he seemed shocked and confused. “Well, I haven’t told anyone in my church about this.” He said. “We are going to fix all this mess and get things back to normal; no one needs to know the details.” When I asked him how his pastor might help him, or if he felt at all uncomfortable hiding his information from his church, he simply shrugged off my statements as if telling his church of his sin was the real transgression. He stated the violence was an isolated incident revolving around personal and marital stress.

After those paragraphs in his book, Chris only talks about how it is imperative that we address the abusive man’s heart, not just his behavior. Chris doesn’t say he commanded this abusive man to be transparent to his church about the ways he had abused his wife. Nor does Chris say that he told the abuser that in his role as Batterer Intervention Specialist, he would diligently double-check with the abusive guy’s pastor. Nor does Chris tell us that and if the abusive guy had not disclosed all to his pastor, he (Chris Moles) would informing the pastor regardless.

What about the abusive guy’s wife who is still in the church? How would she be feeling? How would her kids be feeling?

Chris seldom discusses the doctrine of divorce

He says:

The most common question that I’ve been asked by Christian victims of domestic violence is: What does the Bible say abuse and divorce? Wouldn’t you like me to answer that one. I’m not going to! [he gives a sniggering laugh] We would take all day to kind of talk through that. But that’s a big question and I think the heart behind the question is much more important than the answer to the question. What’s motivating that? And what have you tried? What’s your goal? What do you want? (F 28:00–29:11)  

Here is another place where Chris dances on the fence about divorce.

(source of video:  L 44:05–45:29)

So many victims have asked Chris, “What does the Bible say about abuse and divorce?”  And he won’t give them a direct answer to their question!

He questions the victims who put this question to him. He implies there is probably something wrong with their motives in asking that question. He shows smug disdain for the imploring cries of so many victims!

All these bruised-reed-victims have asked Chris for bread…and he gave them a stone.

They asked him for fish…and he gave them a serpent.

When Chris was giving his lectures on domestic abuse at the IBCD pre-conference in 2017, he spoke very positively about Jim Newheiser, who is the President of IBCD.

Jim Newheiser takes a really tough line on whether a victim can separate from her abuser. And he casts suspicion on the victim’s motives, just like Chris Moles does.

Newheiser says:

I can’t define exactly where that line is [the line in the sand which means that the victim is biblically allowed to separate from the abuser], but if the person for the sake of their own safety, if they’re afraid of getting shot or beaten to death, I’m open to that as a temporary option. I’m also very concerned that if I open that door that somebody will crack it wide open to what I would not think would reach the level of separation.

You have to see what is your motive here. Is your motive you want to honor God and try to save your marriage? Or is your motive that you’re just uncomfortable and you don’t like being uncomfortable and you think you could get relief by escaping? That by itself is not a biblical grounds for separating. (source)

Chris Moles quotes Malachi 2:1:6 as saying “God hates divorce” (L 12:37). And he believes that Malachi 2:13-17 show that “God hates the treacherous violent husband” (M 129). Perhaps Chris does not know that many Hebrew scholars think that “God hates divorce” is a mistranslation of Malachi – in which case he has not done his homework. Or perhaps he knows about the mistranslation, but doesn’t think it is a significant matter – in which case he is not paying enough attention to the views of victims.

At the 21018 conference of the Association of Biblical Counselors, Chris Moles was on a three-person team presenting the Domestic Abuse track. That track consisted of eight one-hour sessions. One of those sessions was devoted to separation and divorce. Here is what Chris says on his blog about that particular session:

Separation, Divorce, and Abuse: I  have been asked many times to present on this topic but always refused. My thought was this should be addressed by a theologian, or scholar but the team felt strongly that I could tackle this topic. I walked us through the common divorce Scriptures and built a cas [sic] for divorce as tool, given to men by God, for the protection of women. (Y)

Maybe when Chris refers to ‘the team’ he is referring to Greg Wilson and Kathy Haecker who were the other co-presenters of the Domestic Abuse stream. But in his post Chris also mentions refers to ‘Dr. Lelek and his team’ (Dr Lelek is the President of Association of Biblical Counselors). So we are left guessing about exactly who it was that thought Chris Moles was qualified to present the Bible’s view on divorce for abuse.

I haven’t yet found any videos, podcasts or other resources coming from that ABC conference. So we don’t know what Chris said in his hour-long presentation on divorce for abuse. If any of our readers find a link to that presentation, we would appreciate you letting us know!

Chris seldom mentions sexual abuse, even though it is a big factor in domestic abuse.

The stories the victims told Chris didn’t mention sexual abuse (M 77) – but that doesn’t mean victims don’t experience a lot of sexual abuse from their husbands. The Duluth Model training Chris received would certainly have discussed sexual abuse. And the Power and Control Wheel which Chris uses in his trainings shows physical and sexual violence as the outer rim of the wheel. But in all his teaching, Chris hardly mentions sexual abuse.

Chris does talk about porn use and adultery by abusers. But only in one of his presentations have I heard him talk about any of the types of sexual abuse which abusers do. In that presentation (Z 32:30), Chris mentions rape, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence, and treating the target in a sexually demeaning manner. But he does not discuss how abusers use coercive control to get their sexual needs be met without having to negotiate. Nor does he mention reproductive abuse where the control tactics are focused on the woman’s reproductive capacity and aspirations.

***

*Citations in this post are shown in grey, with each item designated by a capital letter.
The Chris Moles Digest gives a link to each item cited by a capital letter.

¹ Partner contact is vital, and it always prioritizes the safety of women and children. When men’s behaviour change programs are run under the NTV guidelines, one professional on the Program Team is responsible for making contact with each male participant’s victim, whether or not she is living with the perpetrator or has any intention of continuing or renewing her relationship with him.
Victims are free to discuss their concerns with the partner-contact professional, or to decline involvement if they wish. In some locations they can also take part in a victims’ support group that the partner-contact person facilitates.
Any information that the woman tells the partner-contact professional is NOT passed back to the male participants in the behaviour change group. But if, for example, Jane tells the partner-contact person, “Bob called me a whore when he picked up the kids last Tuesday,” this information is passed to the professionals who facilitate the men’s group, and they can work the topic of sexually derogatory language into the men’s group curriculum, without giving away that Bob had used that language to Jane last Tuesday.

 

8 Comments

  1. Jeff Crippen

    Moles is a walking ego. His goal is to present himself as “the man’s man” and as such he is on the man’s side, not the woman’s. For all his talk about wanting to help abuse victims, the fact is that he sees women as men’s biggest problem. In the end he sides with and invests his energy in the man.

    And its all working just great for him. Chris Moles on the path to fame.

    • Helovesme

      Nicely said, Pastor Jeff!

      What comes across to me very intensely is his condescension towards women. Also the quote by Newheiser almost gave me a stomachache, as it dripped with disdain towards the female gender. As if we weren’t already made VERY “uncomfortable” by abuse itself.

      It’s clear that none of these men really know what it’s like to be abused. They claim to be experts, but a real expert has the quality of compassion and empathy.

      That doesn’t mean you “must” be abused to understand abuse, and to counsel! I would not wish abuse on anyone, for any reason.

      But they have no real insight and depth of understanding that is a work of the Lord Himself on the heart—-what it’s like to be abused, long or short term or whatever form of abuse has been inflicted on a victim.

  2. GypsyAngel

    What concerns me personally is that the program which Chris is heading up (I think), has individuals who work within the program and contact the victims. I am concerned that their personal view of the victim/survivor is tainted by Mr. Moles” teachings from the beginning. I see the potential for it all going wrong from the start. I believe that Mr. Moels may have started out with good intentions (as I have previously mentioned) but what I see is a man who is painting the victim with much the same brush as the perpetrator. …

    Mr. Moles seems to view marriage to an abuser as something that can “be worked on” (for lack of a better way to put it) if both partners do the work. The thing is though, that he seems to conveniently forget (which is a complete unrealistic stance considering what he does) that the perpetrator has to first acknowledge that they have a problem…which they are 96% (generous) unwilling to do. How does one conveniently gloss over the very real danger of loss of life? How is sexual abuse swept under the rug? [yes he touches on it briefly, but only the surface issues…not the deep down guts of it all….I have seen no mention of Human Trafficking at all, and I see it all too often, so it would be reasonable to conjecture that it happens elsewhere too]

    How is it ok to even consider that an abused party “take a break” so both parties can “work on the marriage?”

    There is a little too much “mansplaining” going on here for me to be even the slightest bit comfortable with this man’s methods making their way in to mainstream DV/IPV recovery usages. He is no Expert in the field, nor should he ever be considered one. As I have noted in prior post comments, he is really only dishing up the same old rhetoric with different garnish and words and calling it a new dish, which it most certainly is not! Mr. Moles has the platform, the audience, and the powerful opportunity to make a real difference in how the [Christian] world looks at DV/IPV and the perpetrators, not to mention how they respond to the very real needs of the victim/survivor. I wish he would take it and start a revolutionary change for the better, but alas it think that he will not, I think his eyes are only on himself.

  3. Helovesme

    Barbara, as always—thank you for your work and for your incredible writing. I can’t tell you how much it’s blessed me and so many others.

    I look toward to your post about the last five points you referenced. They all touched a very tender part in me, as those have been prevalent in my life.

    But certainly the depth of the first three also stuck a chord in me. The first sentences about putting the victim first ring of common sense, but are often dismissed.

    I think we as believers may have the misguided notion of: as long as we allow God to work, the body of Christ can (and hopefully will) be one big happy, functioning body.

    I think this is why Chris might be so adamant as to include abusers as equal clients with the victim. He sees the abusers as some sort of “victim” as well (needing counseling, understanding, patience and persistence in order to stop to abuser from hurting himself).

    Poor baby, he is hurting himself so much (as much as he is hurting the victim?) by abusing. We can save BOTH of them if we make both of them an equal priority.

    This is tricky and manipulative. Paul speaks in Romans about how the wages of sin are death. Abusers are reaping death at a countless rate. But the Bible never tells us that it’s our responsibility to stop others from doing so. Paul knew that wasn’t possible. Every abuser willfully and intentionally chooses to sin. They don’t care that they are reaping death!

    I was never made a priority when I was abused, by my unsaved father or by Christians. Never. I can tell you that the pain of that never completely goes away. I needed the support, the love and the deep conviction that I was not alone. Instead I was discarded and dismissed like a dirty rag, as if the abuse had contaminated me.

    I also question how authoritative church leaders are in these matters. While their intervention and support would be helpful, I have suspicions about how much they are in control and calling the shots about something so personal and private. They should be there as prayer warriors and offering practical support—but the victim should be the one who makes the choices about what is best for her and her family.

    It is constantly touted that God looks at the heart, past the appearance. This verse, IMO, is being manipulated to support this narrative: “Chris only talks about how it is imperative that we address the abusive man’s heart, not just his behavior.”

    Yes, we are defined as far more than the choices we make, but make no mistake that our choices ARE a huge definition of who we are on the inside. What we do MATTERS.

    I get tired of how abuse is “rearranged” to tout feeling pity for the abuser, because he or she is so insecure on the inside, and God doesn’t see him or her as abuser—but as a broken, needy soul.

    That may SOUND well and good in narrative, but it’s not Biblical at all. And that is not how the Lord works.

    Yes, He desires that all persons come to repentance, but He is not so desperate for it that He will deceive Himself (and ask us to be deceived along with Him) into thinking that He desires repentance at the expense of innocent souls.

    How Chris tries to say how much he cares about the “next church or next potential victim” that the abuser might target is hogwash. It made me so angry to read this: “But if we do really solid perpetrator work, then what happens if a man’s heart is changed? Then that victim’s safe and every subsequent victim is safe.”

    Chris has no power to make this happen. I don’t know where he gets this idea from, that he can safeguard people and churches like this. The abuser, IMO, will only get better at deceiving and covering their tracks. Chris showed no concern for that one man’s troubles with the law and how it might affect others, and the abuser obviously had no interest in it, either.

    The part about divorce, even though I am not divorced—-angered me the most. Possibly because how much disdain and condescension was showed by Chris and Newheiser as they talked or refused to talk about it. I am so sick and tired of that type of attitude towards the hurting and those pleading for help. It is not their business, or is it their authority—to tell a person when they feel it’s “okay” to divorce, and how “afraid” she needs to be before they’ll allow a “temporary separation.”

    AKA: you’ll be safe, but only for a while. Till we decide when you should no longer feel afraid. And you must be afraid of being beaten “to death,” not just being beaten. What’s the matter, are you afraid of feeling “uncomfortable?” What’s your motive here: can’t handle a little fear while your abuser is trying so hard to change? (I am being a bit sarcastic to reflect my anger at Newheiser’s comment about this)

    This triggered me because of my lifetime spent dealing with, struggling with—and being confused over the concept of fear. My father/abuser caused me to live in fear of him, and it didn’t just go away even when I was no longer living with him.

    I tended to feel very sinful and lacking trust in God when I felt fear. As believers, fear is often touted as the opposite of faith in God. So, when I would fear, panic, anxiety, stress or whatever else—I felt lacking in my trust towards God—as if I did not trust Him to make me brave, give me strength or keep me safe.

    I’m no fan of fear, nor do I WANT to live in fear for the rest of my life—but how it’s minimized and dismissed by the church, particularly when it comes to abuse victims—angers me.

    Sexual abuse should be talked about as freely as any other type of abuse. I have not been sexually abused, but after reading so many stories from others—-it is vital to make it an issue.

    I have dealt with years of feeling ashamed over my looks and feeling dirty. Abuse in general has a way of making you feel tainted and untouchable.

    The readings from Don Henessy about coercive control towards their intimate partners was so eye opening. How they slowly and deliberately gain control and dominance over women is so subtle yet effective. I was shocked at how much damage and pain they caused the person they claim to love, in such a private and personal area such as sexual intimacy.

  4. Finding Answers

    Helovesme commented …I needed the support, the love and the deep conviction that I was not alone…..

    Helovesme also commented I tended to feel very sinful and lacking trust in God when I felt fear. As believers, fear is often touted as the opposite of faith in God. So, when I would fear, panic, anxiety, stress or whatever else—I felt lacking in my trust towards God—as if I did not trust Him to make me brave, give me strength or keep me safe.

    I’m no fan of fear, nor do I WANT to live in fear for the rest of my life—but how it’s minimized and dismissed by the church, particularly when it comes to abuse victims—angers me.

    ^^^^That.

  5. Moving Forward

    What Finding Answers seconded, I third. I don’t know how many times I was told not to have a spirit of fear and that perfect love casteth out all fear. Well, being married to an abusive man definitely gives one something to be fearful about, and it is a healthy fear. Instead of walking with me through my fear and caring about the cause, it was all my fault for allowing myself to fear in the first place. Definitely minimized and dismissed.

  6. Dear Jane,
    I think you are probably wise to be very wary about disclosing, given that your husband is a pastor. If you feel it is not safe for you to report him, then follow your gut feelings.

    It is difficult weighing up the risks of reporting vs the risks of staying silent. Every situation is different. Your own safety and well being, and that of your kids, is a priority. But if you are sufficiently safe from him, then you might want to report him to hopefully prevent him doing more harm to other people. But if the authorities in the church/denomination will disbelieve you and he will mobilist them to retaliate on you, then reporting will only backfire on you.

    There might be items on our FAQs or our Resources which could help you think these issues through. You can find those items in the top menu.

    Your safety is priority. You are the best judge of your own safety.

    An abuser is a non-believer and should never be in leadership. And if the churches were obeying the Bible, the abusers would be put out of the church altogether – not even allowed to be part of the congregation. But the vast majority of churches are so corrupt and compromised that many abusers are in leadership.

    And by the way, we have a tag for Pastors Wives.

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