By Maxine Browne, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Sometimes we forget that the church is a reflection of our society as a whole. Whatever ills are present outside of the church are also present within its walls. And that goes for domestic violence.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Since intimate partner violence is a largely underreported crime, it is likely more prevalent that we care to imagine.
If you know the signs to watch for, you can be more effective spotting domestic violence within your congregation.
1. Stuck together with Velcro
In a controlling relationship, the couple will almost always be seen together. They’ll rarely have separate conversations or wander around the church unaccompanied by their partner. So, have you noticed a couple who is almost never seen independent of their spouse?
2. One spouse does all the talking
In a controlling relationship, one partner dominates every conversation, while their spouse may gradually lose themselves. They become a silent observer, rarely voicing an opinion of any kind. Their mate may even mildly put down their partner to keep them quiet. “She doesn’t really understand things like that.” One spouse may even answer for their partner, cutting them off before they have a chance to respond to questions asked. So, have you noticed a couple where only one person speaks?
3. One spouse must ask permission
There is nothing wrong with having to check in with our spouse to be sure the family has no plans this weekend before committing to something new. However, in a controlling relationship, there is a parent/child dynamic in play, where one must ask permission to participate in things. So, have you noticed an adult having to ask their partner’s permission to attend an event or participate on a committee?
4. One spouse serves at every event attended by their partner
A controlling spouse may insist on ushering at the Women’s Retreat or cooking for the Ladies Breakfast. Their helpfulness is actually a way to discretely keep their spouse under surveillance. At the very least, they may insist on driving their spouse to the event and picking them up afterwards. They may even arrive early and hang around in the back of the room, justifying their presence by saying they were in town anyway and just killing time. So, have you noticed overly eager or inappropriate offers to help? Have you noticed a spouse hanging around to drive their partner home? It may not be as innocent as it looks.
5. The dead look in his/her eyes does not match the plastered smile on their face
Living in a controlling or abusive relationship can lead to depression. The victim may feel cornered, trapped and under constant pressure. The victim may lose their ability to speak up for themselves. The victim may struggle to keep their faith. So, have you noticed anyone who seems withdrawn or down in the dumps? Has someone come to you about doubts about God’s faithfulness and love?
What you can do about it?
1. If someone in your congregation approaches you about their spouse, believe them.
Many victims complain that their spiritual leader did not take their concerns seriously when they sought help. The leader could not accept that Brother So-And-So could be mean, or Deacon “Smith” would hurt anyone, much less his spouse and kids. After all, he or she has been a faithful member for so many years and contributes so much to the community. Remember, anyone can wear a mask in church and anyone can be the victim of abuse.
2. Never insist on couple’s counseling if one of them complains about control or abuse.
In cases of domestic violence or a controlling spouse, couple’s counseling is a bad idea. If the victim reveals anything to the counselor in front of their abuser, they will pay dearly for it at home. It may increase the level of danger for them due to retaliatory tactics. It’s best to refer the victim to a domestic violence program. They know best how to handle things such as this. They also know what resources are available for the victim’s specific situation.
3. Hang up posters or put resource phone numbers in both of the restrooms. This may be the only time that the individual has without their spouse next to them. Victims can be male or female, so offer resources to both genders.
Note: This blog is re-posted from http://frombrokentobutterfly.blogspot.com/2014/01/5-warning-signs-of-spousal-abuse-within.html
Bio for Maxine Brown:
Maxine Browne is a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on the topics of domestic violence and rebuilding your life after divorce. Her inspirational stories illustrate how to co-parent with a difficult ex and how to create healthier relationships.
Maxine is one of the 27 amazing co-authors of the International Best Seller, The Missing Piece compiled by Kate Gardner, as well as one of the co-authors for The Missing Piece in Business. She is also the author of Years of Tears, the story of her 10 year marriage to a controlling tyrant that changed her life forever.
Contact Maxine to speak at your next event at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.maxinebrowne.com.