Christ’s disciples are called on to be the Good Samaritan even if in personal danger. Those helping the victim should expect personal danger. Brothers trying to help have been threatened physically and with legal action for defamation. It may be costly in all sorts of ways, but caring for the defenceless is our first duty.
The apostles require us to “lead” sinners to repentance. We should not encourage contact between abuser and victim without consideration first to the victim’s safety including their mental well-being. Instead of confronting the abuser we should patiently lead them to confession and repentance. We can discuss his understanding of the reasons for his wife’s departure and distress rather than the abuse specifics. It is wrong to apply Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18 about “winning over” a brother force the victim to confront her abuser with the allegations. This is a profound injustice.
We should immediately respond to any direct threats or incidents of physical violence by calling the police and supporting the victim to seek lawful restraining orders. We are ready to call the police to a neighbourhood disturbance - we should be even more ready call them for a sister in distress and support her to obtain an intervention order against her husband if she desires.
When a victim of domestic abuse decides to separate, it has been a difficult and fraught decision. It points to serious abuse and threats to the well-being of the victim and her children. We need to recognise the fear and emotional control exerted by the abuser. Instead of pushing for an immediate reconciliation, we should commend the victim for the bravery of her decision – it should only be a shame for the abuser. As her spiritual family we must provide support to her and her children to ensure their safety and well-being also ensuring the abuser is not isolated or at risk of self harm. This might necessitate arranging for professional help, providing refuge - shelter, food, company for the victims and staying close to the abuser. It might require quite a large emergency team of brothers and sisters including ones from outside the ecclesia better-placed to help.
Domestic abuse is not “private”. It is not “their family business”. It is abuse – and we all have a responsibility to act.
By an open discussion of this confronting subject I pray we will develop our understanding of it, building a brotherhood-wide network of care and responsibility to eliminate this scourge from our midst and extend the love of Christ to all in need.
Leadership is needed. Hard discussions must be had. Realities must be faced. A culture must be changed. May we be found to be lovers of the fatherless and widows in the day of Our Lord’s return.
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.