Hidden Hurt Domestic Abuse Information

Responding to Domestic Violence: Guidelines for Pastors and Rabbis

Where domestic abuse is an issues, victims will often approach their spiritual leaders for guidance. Responding to domestic violence in the 'right' way, ie one which is spiritually sound and envalidating to the victim is of utmost importance. The following guidelines for pastors and rabbis has been drawn up by the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence specifically to help religious leaders respond to domestic violence, the victim and the perpetrator in the most positive and helpful way:

Remember the Goals:

  1. SAFETY for the woman and children
  2. ACCOUNTABILITY for the abuser
  3. RESTORATION of individuals and,

IF POSSIBLE, relationships OR MOURNING the loss of the relationships

DOs and DON’Ts with a battered woman

DO believe her. Her description of the violence is only the tip of the iceberg.

DO reassure her that this is not her fault, she doesn’t deserve this treatment, it is not God’s will for her.

DO give her referral information; primary resources are battered women’s services or shelters and National Hotline. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)

DO 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 survive.

DO 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.)

DO 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.

DO help her with any religious concerns. If she is Christian, give her a copy of KEEPING THE FAITH: GUIDANCE FOR CHRISTIAN WOMEN FACING ABUSE. (see right-hand panel for purchase details)

DO emphasize that the marriage covenant is broken by the violence from her partner.

DO assure her of God’s love and presence, of your commitment to walk with her through this valley of the shadow of death.

DO 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. If she decides to separate and divorce,

DO support her and help her to mourn the loss to herself and her children.

DO pray with her. Ask God to give her the strength and courage she needs.

DON’T 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 . . .

DON’T tell her what to do. Give information and support.

DON’T 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.

DON’T 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.”

DON’T recommend couples counseling or approach her husband and ask for “his side of the story.” These actions will endanger her.

DON’T recommend “marriage enrichment,” “mediation,” or a “communications workshop.” None of these will address the goals listed above.

DON’T send her home with a prayer and directive to submit to her husband, bring him to church, or be a better Christian wife.

DON’T encourage her to forgive him and take him back.


DON’T do nothing.

DO consult with colleagues in the wider community who may have expertise and be able to assist you in your response.

DOs and DON’Ts with an abusive partner

If he has been arrested, DO approach him and express your concern and support for him to be accountable and to deal with his violence.

DON’T meet with him alone and in private. Meet in a public place or in the church with several other people around.

DON’T approach him or let him know that you know about his violence unless a) you have the victim’s permission, b) she is aware that you plan to talk to him and c) you are certain that his partner is safely separated from him.

DO address any religious rationalizations he may offer or questions he may have.

DON’T allow him to use religious excuses for his behavior.

DO name the violence as his problem, not hers. Tell him that only he can stop it; and you are willing to help.

DO refer to a program which specifically addresses abusers.

DO assess him for suicide or threats of homicide. DO warn the victim if he makes specific threats towards her.

DON’T pursue couples’ counseling with him and his partner if you are aware that there is violence in the relationship.

DON’T go to him to confirm the victim’s story.

DON’T give him any information about his partner or her whereabouts.

DON’T be taken in by his minimization, denial or lying about his violence.

DON’T accept his blaming her or other rationalizations for his behavior.

DON’T be taken in by his “conversion” experience. If it is genuine, it will be a tremendous resource as he proceeds with accountability. If it is phony, it is only another way to manipulate you and the system and maintain control of the process to avoid accountability.

DON’T advocate for the abuser to avoid the legal consequences of his violence.

DON’T provide a character witness for this purpose in any legal proceedings.

DON’T forgive an abuser quickly and easily.

DON’T confuse his remorse with true repentance.

DON’T send him home with a prayer. Work with others in the community to hold him accountable.

DO pray with him. Ask God to help him stop his violence, repent and find a new way.

DO assure him of your support in this endeavor.

DO find ways to collaborate with community agencies and law enforcement to hold him accountable.

Return from Responding to Domestic Violence to Religion and DV.

In This Section:

Related Pages:

Abigail's Story
Charlotte's Story
Kiara's Story
May's Story

christian woman vowing

Sometimes Christian women get so bogged down in guilt and the need to save our marriage, that we forget to save ourselves. This book is a must read for anyone in an abusive marriage seeking spiritual guidance. Solid, Christlike interpretation of scripture will offer much needed inspiration and encouragement.

To order in the US: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse

To order in the UK: Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse

The Christian woman whose spirit is being crushed by domestic violence is faced with a unique burden. She needs straight answers - not unrealistic expectations or stereotypical platitudes. "Woman Submit!" by Jocelyn Andersen provides straight answers and clear scriptural direction.

To order in the US: Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence (also available for Kindle)

To order in the UK: Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence

When is divorce biblically permissible and when is it forbidden? And is remarriage ever permissible for a divorced Christian? The problem is particularly intense for Christian victims of marital abuse, who often believe they must choose between two unpleasant alternatives: endure abuse, or face condemnation by God and his church for disobeying the bible.

To order in the US: Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion

To order in the UK: Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion

Click on the donate botton below to support Hidden Hurt. Thanks you.

UK National Domestic Violence Freephone number 0808 2000 247

No Place for Abuse demonstrates that the problem of domestic violence in the church is more pervasive than most Christians would like to believe. Nancy Nason-Clark, a trained sociologist, and Catherine Clark Kroeger, a biblical scholar, confront the issue with both objectivity and compassion. The authors give practical tools to pastors and other counselors for interviewing abuse victims and perpetrators and offer alternatives victims may consider instead of continuing to endure a threatening environment. Another valuable contribution the authors make is their caution against the misrepresentation of Scripture in ways that fail to protect abuse victims. This thought-provoking book has the potential to open the eyes of many believers who don't understand the prevalence of violence in many evangelical homes. It will be particularly useful to pastors and counselors, but will offer guidance to any Christian who has encountered such situations.

To order in the US: No Place for Abuse: Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence

To order in the UK: No Place for Abuse

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