"Women who are being controlled often have thoughts of suicide," Evans says. "By the time abused women come to me, they're so devalued that they typically have feelings of self-abuse."
In Victoria's case, Frank's prominence in the church and the community enabled church members to look the other way when it became clear that he had emotionally abandoned his wife. He has managed to retain his leadership position in the church, despite their pending divorce.
EXPOSED BY THE LIGHT Abusive marriages don't have to end up like Victoria's. In many cases Christian couples have found the path to emotional healing and reconciliation.
Tim and Karen met while they were college students involved in a student ministry. Within months they were engaged and married shortly before their senior year. Soon, though, Tim's plans to attend seminary were shattered by Karen's unexpected pregnancy. The pressures of supporting a family triggered an eruption of violence against Karen.
At the time, the couple lived in a medium-sized city, which gave Tim an anonymity that enabled him to abuse his wife with impunity.
Eventually, two factors entered their lives that made a huge difference: a pastor who dared to confront and a job opportunity back in Tim's hometown.
Shortly before leaving the city, Karen's pastor intervened on her behalf (Tim had long since stopped going to church). He confronted Tim about his abuse and provided him with practical advice on how to deal with anger.
In 1983, Tim and Karen moved to the rural town where Tim's family had lived for generations. Suddenly, Tim was faced with a level of accountability he'd never known before.
"Living in a small town with a population of 2,000 has a fishbowl effect," he says. "I had a job as a teacher, and my behavior reflected on me professionally."
By 1985, the abuse had stopped completely, and Tim made himself accountable to others. Meanwhile, Karen forgave Tim and found emotional support among her Christian friends. Today, Karen, Tim and their four children attend church together.
There's no question in Tim's mind that what reversed his abusive behavior--and healed their marriage--was exposure. His message to both the abused and the abuser is clear: Make abusive behavior known immediately.
"Abuse and violence feed on darkness," he says. "Admitting that abuse exists sheds light on the sin. We've been too willing to allow secret sins to exist. The cure is exposure to the light." *
THE WAY OUT OF ABUSE (RESOURCES AND REFERRALS)
There is now a nationwide counseling hotline for victims of domestic violence, something numerous agencies have tried for years to make available to both victims and abusers.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached by dialing (800) 799-SAFE ( 1-800-799-7233 ).
Several organizations provide information or referrals to agencies, support groups and professionals who assist victims of domestic abuse.
The following resources may be of benefit to you, if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. We encourage you to contact them.
Alliance for Children and Families
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
(888) MINIRTH ( 1-888-646-4784 )
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence
Rapha Treatment Centers
(800) 383-HOPE ( 1-800-383-4673 )
ORGANIZATIONS THAT ASSIST PASTORS IN COUNSELING VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE:
Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence
www.cpsdv.org (From the main menu click on "Publication," then on "Journal of Religion and Abuse"--A Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence. Also from the main menu click on "Domestic Violence." Listed on the lower right-hand corner of the screen, you will see "Black Church and Domestic Violence Project").
Rapha Treatment Centers Ministers' Hotline
Broken Vows, a one-hour video with study guide; available through the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (see phone number above).
Marcia Ford, a former associate editor for Charisma, is an independent book, magazine and Web site editor who lives in DeBary, Florida. She is the author of Charisma Reports: The Brownsville Revival (Creation House).
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