Religious teachings can serve as either a
roadblock or a resource in addressing domestic violence.
Religious teachings or scripture are
sometimes misinterpreted, distorted, and misused to suggest that domestic
violence is acceptable or even God’s will.
Christian women often feel compelled to
stay in abusive relationships by scripture mandating them to “submit to
their husbands” or “turn the other cheek”.
Jewish women may feel pressure to not bring
shame to their community by revealing the abuse in their marriage, or they
may feel that it is their responsibility to maintain shalom bayit,
or peace in the home.
Muslim women may question the nature of God
and may question the relationship of God to them if they are in an abusive
Abused women often feel abandoned by God.
An informed, compassionate clergy person
can contribute to the healing process of a victim of domestic violence.
More clergy are getting the education and training needed to support
victims in staying safe.
to Domestic Violence:
Remember the Goals:
DO’s and DON’Ts with a battered woman:
believe her. Her description of the violence is only the tip of the
reassure her that this is not her fault, she doesn’t deserve this
treatment, it is not God’s will for her.
give her referral information; primary resources are battered women’s
services or shelters and National Hotline. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or
support and respect her choices. Even if she chooses initially to return
to the abuser, it is her choice. She has the most information about how to
encourage her to think about a safety plan: set aside some money; copies
of important papers for her and children; a change of clothes hidden or in
care of a friend if she decides to go to a shelter. Plan how to exit the
house the next time the abuser is violent. Plan what to do about the
children if they are at school; if they are asleep, etc. (This is both
practical and helps her stay in touch with the reality of the abuser’s
violence. Safety planning is a process that is ongoing.)
protect her confidentiality. DO NOT give information about her or her
whereabouts to the abuser or to others who might pass information on to
the abuser. Do not discuss with the parish council/session/elders who
might inadvertently pass information on to the abuser.
help her with any religious concerns. If she is Christian, give her a copy
of Keeping The Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse.
emphasize that the marriage covenant is broken by the violence from her
assure her of God’s love and presence, of your commitment to walk with
her through this valley of the shadow of death.
help her see that her partner’s violence has broken the marriage
covenant and that God does not want her to remain in a situation where her
life and the lives of her children are in danger.
she decides to separate and divorce, DO support her and help her to mourn
the loss to herself and her children.
pray with her. Ask God to give her the strength and courage she needs.
minimize the danger to her. You can be a reality check. “From what you
have told me, I am very much concerned for your safety . . .”
tell her what to do. Give information and support.
react with disbelief, disgust, or anger at what she tells you. But don’t
react passively either. Let her know that you are concerned and that what
the abuser has done to her is wrong and not deserved by her.
blame her for his violence. If she is blaming herself, try to reframe:
“I don’t care if you did have supper late or forget to water the lawn,
that is no reason for him to be violent with you. This is his problem.”
recommend couples counseling or approach her husband and ask for “his
side of the story.” These actions will endanger her.
recommend “marriage enrichment,” “mediation,” or a
“communications workshop.” None of these will address the goals listed
send her home with a prayer and directive to submit to her husband, bring
him to church, or be a better Christian wife.
encourage her to forgive him and take him back.
NOT encourage her dependence on you OR BECOME EMOTIONALLY OR SEXUALLY
INVOLVED WITH HER.
consult with colleagues in the wider community who may have expertise and
be able to assist you in your response.
Adapted from materials produced by the
Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence.
For more information about how religious
communities can respond to domestic violence and for educational
materials, contact the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic
Violence at www.cpsdv.org.
For books about religion and domestic
violence look at our Reading
you need assistance or if you have questions,
the 24-hour crisis line 1-800-827-8840
(V/TTY available 8am-5pm)
MASTERPEACE Center for Counseling and Development
308 S. Maumee Street, Tecumseh, MI 49286