When you think of abused women you might not think they are sitting in church next to you, or in front of you, or behind you. Yet one in three women is being abused and chances are good she – and several more like her – attends your church too.
Author Karen DeArmond Gardner was one of them and she has now written a beautiful book called Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse to help set another one free. Whether you are the woman being abused, you know of one, or you think you may know one, keep reading for how you can win a free copy of Karen’s new book to help you or someone you know.
Here is what Karen has to say…
We all know an abused woman. Many times we just don’t know we know.
She may be a bit stand-offish. She may be timid or loud and talkative. She may be jumpy and skittish, or she may be easily offended. You may think she doesn’t like you or she’s hard to get to know.
She doesn’t look abused. She’s any woman, rich or poor. She may work outside the home or be a stay-at-home mom. She may have a college education, or she may not have a high school diploma. She may speak English, she may not.
Her abuser is sometimes even more difficult to notice. Often he’s charming, charismatic, attentive, likeable, and funny. He may be talkative or quiet. You may wish your husband was more like him. You may think you know him, but you don’t. You only see what he wants you to see.
This couple attends church, may even be actively involved in church. He could be the pastor, elder, deacon, parishioner, or leader of the worship team or men’s ministry. He could be white collar, blue collar, police officer, lawyer, mechanic, or work at the local factory.
Hidden within our churches are women who are trapped in abusive marriages. I call them lost — not because they don’t know Christ, but because the dictionary defines lost as those who can’t be found. They are bewildered, women who cannot win. They’re defeated, destroyed, ruined, distracted, distraught, desperate, and hopeless.
This was me. I knew Jesus, attended church, yet I was lost in an abusive marriage. Like me, the abused woman near you is hiding in plain sight, silently suffering. She may not know she’s abused – he’s taught her to protect him, to cover for him, and he might not hit her. Not all domestic abuse is physical.
Some churches believe they must protect the marriage and have taught the abused it’s her responsibility to pray for him, to submit, to forgive, to be a better wife so he’ll be a better man, to give him more sex so he won’t watch porn or lust after other women. She holds onto the promise that one day he’ll change, so she stands by her man. And she believes this is what God wants her to do because God hates divorce. It’s not. It may be what the church wants her to do. It shouldn’t be. What if God loves her more than He hates divorce? He absolutely loves her more.
What she doesn’t know is that her husband probably won’t change. He doesn’t believe he needs to change. He believes he’s not the problem, she is. He presents the image of a “good Christian man” only he’s not good at all.
What can we do in our women’s ministry to reach the lost and abused women within our churches? Bring in speakers who talk about domestic abuse, learn about it, talk about it. Remove the stigma from domestic abuse. Choose to become women willing to talk about the difficult. Become a refuge for the hurting.
Here are ten ways you can be a safe haven for the woman being abused:
- Listen to her without judgment (be aware of your facial expression).
- Believe her even if her story sounds outrageous or unbelievable.
- Don’t assume she provoked him or downplay his actions or behavior.
- Avoid asking questions, she doesn’t want to explain herself.
- Don’t get his side of the story, he will mutualize (saying she did this so he did that), he’ll deny, downplay his behavior, or say, “I’m sorry” which he doesn’t mean.
- Don’t quote scripture at her or give advice. Just listen.
- Don’t pressure her to leave him. Only she can determine when she’s ready to leave.
- If she wants to leave, help her plan and give her tangible help.
- Don’t ask her why she stayed, why she didn’t tell anyone, or call the police.
- Most importantly… don’t assume he wouldn’t do what she said he did.
Love her. Then love her some more.
Being a safe person for someone who is hurting is exhausting. Her pain can be overwhelming. She may need help to find a trauma counselor, an attorney, a place to live, or a job.
Healing from the one who vowed to love you is a hard process. She may have thought leaving is the end. It’s not. Leaving is just the beginning – the beginning of hard, horrific pain, doubt, and so much more.
The man who vowed to love her betrayed her, took everything that was good from her, and caused her to question her identity and who God is. She may step away from church, she may be angry at God. She may even swear. Don’t push her to forgive. Give her permission to not be okay.
She has much to sort out about God and herself. God will give her the space to feel all the feels, to ride the rollercoaster called healing. Keep in mind, she didn’t break the covenant. He did, when he violated the covenant by abusing the one he vowed to love.
What can you do?
God calls us to be a light in a very dark world (Luke 8:16-17). He’s asking for workers, not just for the harvest of those who don’t know Jesus, but for those lost in abuse – within the Church:
“The harvest is great, but the workers (doers) are few.
So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest;
ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:37 – 38).
What can you do to help a woman near you who is hurting? Let us know in the comment section below (along with which U.S. state you live in) and we will choose a winner on Aug. 30 to receive a free copy of Karen’s book for yourself or someone you know.
Karen DeArmond Gardner is the author of Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse. Karen helps women heal from the one who vowed to love them. She and her husband Tom live in Texas and own a private security company. Discover more at AnotherOneFree.com and on social media.
This is really great information and advice!! I was in an abusive marriage for 20 years and I told no one. Why? Because he was a pastor. I worked SO hard to be the good wife but nothing I did stopped what he did. I learned not to cry, not to complain and just take it. Then, he had an affair and left me for our church secretary. The worst thing was, one of my daughters starting dating guys who were abusive. Thankfully, we were both able to get counseling and God healed. We are naïve and because we are believers we think it can’t be happening in our churches. But believe me — IT IS! Thank you Karen for being the voice for those who don’t feel safe to have a voice.
Kim, Thank you so much for sharing this. And for validating that this is a topic that Christian women need to know about and take action on.
I’m so sorry your husband betrayed you in so many ways. Thank you for your vulnerability and courage in sharing the hard and the healing God has begun in your and your daughter.
Domestic abuse is an epidemic within our churches. Like you and me… we didn’t speak up. Why? We’ve been taught women are to be silent, to stand by their man, to submit, to forgive, to do more, to be more. Which is so not biblical.
I went through this too. Be careful who you share with.
I’m so sorry Mary that you too went through abuse too. And you are so right, not everyone is safe. You are not required to answer questions either.
Thank you…. I am one of these abused women you speak of — the silent abuse that no one sees … Verbal, emotional, mental, financial abuses are so very real … And no one believes because there are no bruises …. Especially those in the church. I want out, but it’s SO hard without solid support …. Perhaps someday I won’t have to suffer like this anymore …. My heart is to help other abused women, but I don’t feel qualified because I am living in it myself …. Thank you for speaking out, Karen … I would absolutely LOVE to read your book!! If I want to order anything, I have to ask a friend to do it, as I have no access, and I don’t dare ask my spouse ….
Oh Amy I’m so sorry! It is hard to leave without support but not impossible. Domestic abuse isn’t God’s plan for marriage and it’s not suffering for Jesus. Praying God makes a way for you and brings safe women in your life to help you.
I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. I too was taught “it’s her responsibility to pray for him, to submit, to forgive, to be a better wife so he’ll be a better man … believe this is what God wants her to do because God hates divorce.” It took me 23 years to have the courage to say “no more”. And I still struggle some, 5 years later, to be able to articulate choosing to leave/to divorce in a way that is “acceptable”. But I do know at my core, it was the right thing to do; I am safe and healthier now. I pray that God will continue to strengthen me and use me and my story for His glory. Thank you again!
Karen, you are so welcome!
Can I share some good news with you? God loves you more than he hates divorce, more than he hates anything. Rest assured your husband broke the covenant the moment he abused you. So, it’s not your shame but his.
So glad you are healthier and are safe. God will continue to lead you through healing and in the process you’ll get stronger.
I am so glad you posted this. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Sherry. It’s always good to hear from you and I hope you are doing well. 🙂
You’re welcome Sherry.
I’ve read some of the above comments and can identify with the fact that emotional and verbal abuse is very real. I am living with a person who is not a believer, but he is very charming and has been superficially “good” to me. I feel he has no respect for me and just today says he doesn’t trust me. I feel the need to move closer to my sons who live 4 hours away. Of course, this is impossible as the home we have is paid for and he wants to be close to the doctors who treat his cancer. I usually have to get permission to go out with friends and even when I go to church it’s not to his liking as he says I “abandon” him since he doesn’t go. Our sizzle has gone out of the marriage as well as anything in common to share aside from the home. It is a lonely time when I have to write poems and stories to keep from being depressed. My sons want me to leave, but the fear of his reaction keeps me grounded. Pray I would be strong in the Lord and walk by faith. Your book might be a good anchor as well.
Thank you, Kathy, for your honesty. You are in my prayers and I know Karen’s heart is with you, too.
Kathy, I’m so sorry for all you are walking through. I know it’s terrifying when you think of leaving. I was. You can plan but never tell him what you’re doing. It sounds as if your sons would help you. In the end, it’s your decision on when or if you leave. Praying God will give you clarity and wisdom.
I have been through this as the pastor’s wife and it was so, so hard! I did finally leave. Then, I married another abuser and stayed for ten years. Obviously, I make bad choices when it comes to men. I think it’s because I choose men like my father, who was also abusive. Through therapy and a lot of self reflection, as well as prayer, I am seeing my mistakes and why I have made them. The church was never helpful to me in either instance. I am very involved with my church and it hurts very much that no one reaches out to me to try to help with my pain. But I know that God is there for me and I trust in Him daily.
Perhaps once I am in a better place, I can be there for other women who have gone through this pain.
Thanks for your vulnerability, Terry, and for your continued trust in the Lord. The church (myself included) often don’t know HOW to respond, which is why I’m so pleased Karen has written this book…to help all of us understand what our sisters in Christ are going through and how to be Jesus to them.
I’m so sorry this is your story. I’m thrilled you are pursuing healing.
Too many churches don’t know how to help and they don’t know how to find the resources to help the people in their care.
Thank you for sharing your hard.
The Lord led me to this page as I prayed. I am desperate. I feel like this is my life you are talking about I am so lost and hurt. I am a mother of three beautiful children and have been married for more than 10 years to a man that has emotionally and physically abused me he always made me feel like I was never good enough. I tried so hard to make our marriage work and I thought if only I could be a better wife a better mother our marriage would get better. We were the perfect family on the outside we went to church every Sunday ad lots of church friends did all the marriage courses and read all the books I could but nothing helped. I was constantly manipulated and degraded and I could never do anything right. He would fly into a rage over the slightest little thing and the added stress of running a security business together did not help. During Covid I was working from home and homeschooling our 3 kids and was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer, so I have hardly left the house. Last month I could not take it anymore I found out that not only was he abusing me and the kids he was watching really sick child pornography. having affairs during the day when he was supposed to be working and stealing from our business. When I asked him about this he went mad. completely denied everything despite the fact that I have proof of it all. I feared for our lives and had not slept for 2 nights I went to the police to get a restraining order. Unfortunately he knew how to manipulate the system so he is currently staying at our house and the kids and I had to move out. Luckily he hasn’t got access to his firearms He is lying and manipulating our closest friends and using our church as a cover to make himself look like this wonderful Christian man with this crazy wife. I feel so alone and hurt and let down. Please could you pray for the Lord’s protection and for truth and lies to be exposed. The Lord is with us and I know He is protecting us and He is our comfort and my strength. I know I cannot do this alone…
Kay, I am so sorry for what you are dealing with and I am praying you find some support and help and your husband’s crime is exposed soon. I have asked Karen, the author of the book and guest post, to contact you directly so she can offer her heart, support and wisdom. You are not alone.
Kay, I emailed you from firstname.lastname@example.org at 4:39pm cst. on September 11th.