A person who has disclosed they are abused has climbed a mountain of shame against an ill-wind: the belief they will neither be believed or helped. We need to face this by accepting abuse reports are unlikely to be vexatious.
[Note: before reading this you might like to revise what domestic abuse is]
Our priority must be the safety of the victim and their children. It is critical that before anything else this is ensured. The urgency required is to ensure safety of the victim and that they know we believe them and will support them with whatever is required – be it sanctuary, professional help, financial support, emotional support and support to obtain any legal intervention order they might feel is needed to keep them safe. There should be no rush for reconciliation or to put the couple back together.
To rush these things is complying with the abuser’s demands and wishes. The rush sweeps the abuse under the carpet and leads to a repeated cycle under a ‘new layer of carpet’. We should be paying careful attention to and noting the abuser’s excuses, entitlement thinking and demands while studiously avoiding accepting them or agreeing with them. His excuses emphasise the nature of his problem and underscore the truth of the victim’s claims.
We need to deal with the case as our Lord dealt with the underprivileged and down-trodden. He did not deign to repeat the accusation of the Pharisees against the woman found in sin. Our approach must ensure we protect the victim too by not disclosing her report. We are called to “lead” sinners to repentance, and the example of Nathan with David is something we must learn from. This requires less of the heavy hand, urgent action and strong words and more patient “drawing to one’s side” with a focus on bringing the abuser to realise and discuss the impact upon the victim. Hopefully, and over time, the abuser can recognise his pattern of abusive behaviours and when complete confession is made slowly rebuild his relationship with his God, and if he can, his wife as well leading to repair their marriage. Just as we do not accept instant conversion for new candidates for baptism, so we should not accept instant confession and repentance by abusers.
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.