Myth: Staying in an abusive marriage is required “for the sake of the children”
When weighing up a decision to leave an abuser, one balancing consideration (of many) is if and how the father is fulfilling his scriptural duties. An abuser’s bad example may be teaching his children to dishonour their mother and to despise or mistreat her. This creates a home environment of shame and fear where there is none of the love Christ has us. “There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18 ESV). This affects the emotional well-being of children. The abuser is breaking his marriage vows. The marriage is made a sham. So are his claims to follow Christ. Children seeing this will question whether the two wholesome and life-giving decisions – to follow Christ and to get married - are paths for them. Sadly many do not accept either path. Boys often mimic the behaviours of their abusive fathers in their own marriage perpetuating the abuse over generations.
Children are often made bargaining chips. Whether threats to children - physical, psychological or emotional - is child abuse. People working with children have legal obligations to report well-founded suspicions to authorities. So we must accept a mother’s decision that it is often better “for the sake of the children” to separate from an abusive husband. A mother can hope and pray that her stand against wickedness will be recognised as a strength by her children, and they will learn to see through the manipulation and control of their father.
If this article raises concerns you have about domestic violence in your own life or those around you can call 1800RESPECT (If in Australia) or similar services in other countries. There is also a list of support services on this website including Christadelphian Support Services.