Saturday, March 21, 2015

When Abuse Leads to Cynicism


Dear friends,


Do you know anyone whose faith has been turned upside down into cynicism because of hypocrisy or abuse within a church or a family? 

I do. I've lost count of those I know personally, and I have read about far more who have walked away from the Christian faith or at least wandered to the outer fringe of fellowship.

I have been researching abuse and authority issues in families, churches, and religious movements for over seven years. In the process, I realized that an organization of churches (of which I was a longtime member) had some really grievous problems that were adversely affecting my family and many others. Toward the end of our time there, I felt like I was shriveling up spiritually. And mine was a mild case!

Since then, I've read books and blogs about various kinds of abuse, I've conversed with countless people who have been afflicted, and I've thought back on some of my own troubling experiences.

What have I seen? 
  • Legalism in its many forms
  • Controlling and even cult-like behavior
  • Arrogance, greed, and a lust for power
  • Leaders who failed to take appropriate precautions to protect vulnerable people in their care, then failed to properly handle abusive situations after they happened
  • Leaders who actively covered up evidence to protect abusers rather than victims
  • Leaders who were the actual perpetrators of child molestation, adult sexual abuse, violence in the home, embezzlement, and every other manner of aberrant behavior. 
Frankly, I am angry at these failures. If you haven't given much thought to this issue, please don't look away. Pause and let it sink in. (If you don't know what "it" is, do your research. You can start with the links at the bottom of this page.)

So I am angry at the hypocrisy and abuse. But I am also angry at the aftermath.

As I have listened (or read) when abuse survivors have shared their stories, I find that so many are hurting beyond belief. And sometimes it really is beyond belief, because so many of them have either walked away from faith or are at least questioning everything they once held dear. Their faith has been turned upside down. 

Then what happens? If they dare to share their doubts, are they met with compassion and genuine understanding? Sometimes. I'm glad when I hear that. Too often, however, they are instead met with sanctimonious condescension and contempt.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment, will you?

Let's imagine that you have been, by all accounts, a devout Christian for years. You've read your Bible, shared the gospel, given tens of thousands of dollars, listened to hundreds of sermons and taken notes, sung all the songs, attended the conferences. You wrapped your entire life around expressing your Christian faith. You were on fire for Jesus. Until you got burned.

Then one day you woke up and realized you had been deceived, manipulated, cheated, belittled, threatened, slandered, battered or molested by someone you trusted most - a pastor, Bible study leader, parent, spouse,  or best friend. Maybe they used shame, intimidation or violence to control and silence you. Maybe they appealed to their authority position or twisted the Scriptures to justify their behavior and to coerce you to comply. 

And then it was suddenly all your fault because you had the audacity to object or even just to ask questions. After all, you obviously must have a problem with God if you can't quietly and cheerfully obey those he "placed in authority" over you, right?  You hear accusations that you are: Bitter. Rebellious. Divisive. A slanderer. Ignorant of Scripture. Faithless. Selfish. Too sensitive. Proud. Resisting accountability. Playing the martyr. A backslider, or never a Christian in the first place. A heretic. An infidel.

Here's a gem I've seen so many times, especially in blog comment threads: "Hey, if you don't like what I said here, that's your problem. The Bible clearly says "________", and if you disagree, you're arguing with God, not me."

Can you imagine it? Let it sink in again. Put yourself in their shoes again.

Think how confused you are. Certain religious words and phrases which used to be the hallmarks of your faith now trigger anxiety and depression. You are bruised, angry, cynical, devastated. The foundation of your spiritual life has been shaken. Weren't these people supposed to be the voice and hands of God in your life?

Your trust has been shattered.

Where can you turn? To those who have been your community of faith, perhaps your whole spiritual support system and social world? Maybe. Maybe not. It's a risk. If you are lucky, you will be heard and loved into wholeness again. If not, you might face further mistreatment, including those accusations I mentioned earlier. Not everyone truly understands the dynamics and destruction of abuse. 

To you, your old friends and spiritual comrades are now untrustworthy, hypocritical, gullible fools still following charlatans. Nope, not going there anymore. There are plenty of other places to turn for comfort and camaraderie. And you think, “I wasn't planning to ditch the Christian faith entirely, but if no one can handle my questions and my grievances... Sure, I've got a problem with God. In fact, I'm done. Done." 

What do you think of this imaginative exercise? For some of you, it was more reality than imagination. Can I be honest? It's a little too close for comfort for me. I've been the legalist, the groupie, the harsh parent, the manipulator, the hypocritical critic, the naive church member, the financial enabler, the quoter of pious crap, the victim/survivor, and the cynic. It's getting a little hot in here, but I've got to own that! And wow, this post is getting so much longer than I intended. Bear with me a few more paragraphs? OK, several more?


I am fortunate that I was able to find a healthier church, and that I was also able to make peace and continue warm relationships with friends and pastors from the church we left behind. However, certain aspects of the Christian experience can still be a struggle for me.

For a survivor of spiritual, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, it is sometimes so difficult to continue in faith as we had known it. It can be such a challenge to trust God or Christians, pray, read the Bible, sit in church, listen to Christian radio, or function in healthy relationships with family and friends. 

People who react negatively to abuse in spiritual settings do not need pious platitudes, pointed criticism, or pitiful condescension. 

They need to see Christians:
  • extend grace, mercy, compassion
  • listen long and well without deflection or excuse
  • take them seriously when they tell their stories and share their doubts
  • educate themselves about sexual abuse, domestic violence, and cultish practices
  • protect the vulnerable by putting precautions into place
  • embrace the broken, and help them pick up the pieces
  • pursue justice and healing for the abused
  • provide moderated support groups and on-line forums for abuse survivors
  • stop demonizing mental illness and start encouraging professional therapy
  • stop blaming victims for their own abuse
  • stop perpetuating power structures that keep others in bondage
  • humble themselves in true repentance
  • take responsibility for their failures and make restitution for damage
  • hold abusers accountable and make them step down from any positions of supposed authority.
They need to see Christians be more like Jesus.

How about it? When they look at us, what are they going to see?


I know I've got a long way to go.

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles
www.WatchTheShepherd.blogspot.com

P.S. #1: Some helpful web sites:

P.S. #2: Some of my own posts on abuse of authority...


Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day 2015: Women's Voices Rising

Dear friends,

Today is International Women's Day! I am home schooling the youngest of my seven daughters, and we've been studying the Civil War era for a few weeks. There are so many wonderful books about great women.


Harriet Tubman, a hero of American history, led hundreds of fellow slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad at great risk to her own life, and then served as a Union scout and spy during the Civil War.

Sojourner Truth, an escaped slave, toured the country speaking up for the rights of slaves and women. "Ain't I a woman?"


Harriet Beecher Stowe was, according to Lincoln, the "little woman who started the great war" with her grave depiction of slavery in her best-selling novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Clara Barton was not only a Civil War battlefield nurse - when most nurses were men - but also a women's rights activist and the founder of the American Red Cross. (See here.)

Mary McLeod Bethune, the first child in her family born free, started a school for former slaves. 

I admire these women for their courage, not only in fighting injustice and cruelty, but also for stepping above the cultural stereotypes of what women can or should do.


The day for this kind of courage and initiative is not over. Injustice still poisons the globe and the oppression of women is particularly foul, especially when it comes to sex trafficking, domestic violence, genital mutilation, denial of educational opportunities / legal protection /  adequate health care, and other serious issues. Not only that, even Western Christians are struggling with the prevailing attitudes of the church toward women. 


We need the strong voice of women. Women must not be silent in the face of injustice.

So I am thankful that women's voices are rising. I hear them, and I add my own.

I'm not expert on any of this, and can't give you an exhaustive list of resources. For now, I'm only going to mention several books that have been helpful to me.


You can read more about these books and their authors in a blog post that I wrote exactly four years ago: Weekend Gratitude for Synergy and Little Bits Working Together.


(Note: This was an update of a post I wrote in 2013.)

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles
www.WatchTheShepherd.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Recognizing Pervasive, Poisonous Power in Marriage




There are two kinds of power. One kills the spirit. The other nourishes the spirit. The first is Power Over. The other is Personal Power. Power Over shows up as control and dominance. Personal Power shows up as mutuality and co-creation. Mutuality is a way of being with a person which promotes the growth and well-being of one's self and the other person by means of clear communication and empathetic understanding. Co-creation is a consciously shared participation in life which helps one reach one's goals.”

Patricia Evans, in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, outlines two very different paradigms to life. Reality I is what she calls Power Over. Reality II is Personal Power. Each of us lives according to one primary Reality, although I'm sure there is some overlap.   

Those who live in Personal Power desire the common good and are willing to communicate and cooperate with others to achieve worthy goals, including those which meet their own reasonable needs. On the other hand, those who live in the Power Over mindset must control others to get what they personally want. In fact, what they really want is CONTROL. If they aren't in charge, nothing is right with their world until they gain the upper hand. Even if it destroys others. Even if it ultimately destroys themselves.

This is what I call pervasive, poisonous power. Pervasive because it is nearly always there and affects so many areas of life. Poisonous because it is malignant and damaging. (Pernicious is another word that comes to mind, but isn't as familiar to many.)

What happens when a Mr. Power Over marries a Ms. Personal Power? She is coming from a position of good will. She invests emotionally in the relationship and works toward their mutual well-being as a couple. She expects to listen and she expects to be heard. Prior to the wedding, he tends to be on his best behavior because he doesn't want to alienate. When the ring is on and she's made that firm commitment, he's got her. He may be able to suppress outward Power Over behavior for a while – months or even years – because being nice suits his purposes: it gets him what he wants. It just won't last. But here's the rub. If he can't get what he wants by being nice, he'll turn to nastiness. The soft paws disappear as the sharp claws are bared. Out come the accusations, the manipulation, the shaming, the demands, the intimidation, and even the violence.

When Mr. Power Over begins to exert his control, his wife is at first bewildered and uncomfortable. Why is he acting like that? Did she do something wrong? Hmm. What can she change? She'll try harder to please him. That doesn't work. He's angry at her, making accusations. She's more confused than ever. She thinks he just must not understand. She tries to explain how she feels, what her intentions are, to let him know she's on his side. She wants a healthy relationship, and she's willing to sacrifice dearly for it. On the inside, he's gloating that he's got her under his thumb. He may let up the pressure a little and throw her a bone of a conditional approval. But that high soon wears off. He must find something else to criticize – not because there is anything wrong, but just because he needs to throw her off balance emotionally to maintain power. 

Again, remember that his primary thirst is for complete control. Yes, he might truly want her to keep the house cleaner or spend less money or keep the kids quieter, or whatever else he's complaining about. But that will not satisfy him. He can't be pleased. If she has managed to maintain a sense of self dignity and the satisfaction of what she thinks is a job well done, he will feel the need to destroy it. She must be continually dependent on him or he won't be happy.

Meanwhile, if she isn't aware of the power play at work, she is in utter turmoil. If she has grown up in a family atmosphere of Reality II (Personal Power) and doesn't realize that there is such a thing as Reality I (Power Over) and that she is married to it, this just doesn't compute! She is still operating from the assumption that if she tries hard to please and appease him, and if she learns all of the best communication techniques, that he will love her in return and they will have a healthy relationship. 

Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. Until he realizes and relinquishes his primal need to control her, she's fighting for a lost cause. 

What if she grew up in home with at least one Power Over parent, especially if it is the father? If that's the case, she's already been conditioned to accept abuse instead of expecting respect. She thinks it's normal and that she deserves it. 

No matter which way she grew up, she's likely to blame herself. Hopefully, she'll realize what's really going on and become empowered to stand up to it.

~*~*~

I'm already anticipating some objections to what I'm writing. I've read quite enough troll comments on blogs addressing the same issues. Here are three possible objections:

"Don't we all have power struggles? Why so dramatic here?" 

Yes, everyone wrestles with power issues to a certain extent. We can all be selfish and inconsiderate. No one is a total villain or saint. However, I'm not talking about normal marital difficulties, an evenly matched tug-of-war, but a significant and toxic imbalance of power. This isn't because the woman is dumb or weak, but because her trust and kindness are being used against her by someone with an unusually overbearing personality. Again, the words PERVASIVE and POISONOUS describe this kind of power. If you haven't experienced this, count your blessings.

"Isn't a man supposed to lead his family?”

A man can certainly serve his family well by providing leadership in many areas, just as his wife can. Each one's personal strengths can be amazing assets if they can work together with mutual respect. LEADERS LISTEN. LEADERS LOVE. 

True leadership is not tyrannical or domineering. Leaders consider what other people need. They nurture those in their care. I believe in egalitarian marriage, but I think that even those who believe in traditional gender roles can at least agree on that. 

But what about a Power Over woman and a Personal Power man? Why are you always painting the women as victims?” 

Yes, of course women can be the ones trying to exert pervasive, poisonous power. But as tragic and common as that scenario is, that's not what I am writing about here. This is why. There is a different dynamic in play there that is beyond the scope of this article. 

A woman is perhaps more vulnerable in this situation precisely because of gender role expectations from both church and culture. She's stuck because she doesn't feel she has any recourse. She is conditioned to think that if the marriage is in trouble, it's her fault and she needs to fix it. If she wakes up to the Real Reality and takes a stand for herself and her children, all she hears from her husband, and perhaps her church, is, “Woman, submit!” or “You're being rebellious!” I wrote about this in my post The Bad Boy and the Angel

~*~*~

So this seems like a pretty hopeless scenario! What is a woman in this situation supposed to do?

That's a great question - but I'll have to save it for another post soon. Let me say right off:

If you or your children are in any kind of danger, get to safety immediately! Call the police, your National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233), or your local women's crisis shelter. They are trained to help!

I also have a lot of articles and recommended web sites about abusive relationships. Here are some of the specific links:

On my blogs:

Other sites:


This post was inspired by seeing one by Natalie Klejwa: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Go read her blog! She's got some amazing stuff there! I first connected with Natalie, another home school mom with a big bunch of children, after reading her earlier post on the red flags of abuse: Deal Breakers: Advice to Unmarried Women and Daughters 


Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mara's Story: Anger After Abuse (DV Story #4)


Last year, I featured a three part series of interviews with domestic violence survivors, in hopes of helping abused women find healing and educating others in how to respond with wisdom and compassion. You can find those interviews here:
Now “Mara” has come forward with some thoughts on anger after abuse. This is not technically an interview since it is not in Q & A format, and at her request I have also done substantial organizational and style editing to best convey her thoughts, so I guess you could say this is a collaborative guest post of sorts. No matter what you call it, let's welcome Mara.

~*~*~
Hello!

Like the other women who have shared their stories on this blog, I have chosen a pseudonym to protect my family's privacy. “Mara” is my name for this story because it means bitter. But that's not the end of my story.

Here is how I will start.

I am a survivor of many years of physical aggression and emotional abuse in the home. It hurts to even type those words, but that one sentence cannot even begin to convey the depths of pain this has entailed. It is a “Mara” life.

Where do I get the “Mara” concept?

In Exodus 15:22-25, we read “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.” (Some versions say that the bitter water actually became sweet.)

Then in the book of Ruth, an older woman named Naomi has suffered deep loss with a famine, an exile, and the deaths of her husband and two sons. As she returns home to Bethlehem after her long sojourn in Moab, she tells her old friends, "Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Her spirit has been crushed and she doesn't see much hope for the future. Yet that is not the end of the story. By the end of the book, she has been restored to connection and joy.

I like those two stories. They speak redemption in the end, when all is well again.

Yet it troubles me that when people are trying to relate to a woman who has suffered abuse, they want to paste on a “happily ever after” ending once she is “safely” out of her dangerous situation. Now we can move merrily along, can't we? It's easier that way than actually walking with her step by step on what will be a long and bumpy path. Her pain and anger and even her danger are not nearly over.

It troubles me even more that when an abuse survivor is processing anger that people heap more shame on her. “Forgive and forget!” “Move on!” “Stop being so bitter!” “Everyone makes mistakes! What about your own sin? Take the log out of your eye, will you?”

I am still angry. At a lot of people.

I am angry at the man who mistreated me and my children.That one is obvious. He was supposed to nurture and protect, not use aggression or manipulation to try to control us!

I am angry at myself and even my children for not being good enough to be treated well. If ​we had just been more compliant, more diligent, more organized, more quiet, more sweet, more... Well, maybe we could have been a happy family. Of course we could never be good enough, not in a million years, to please one who can't be pleased. I know that. I really do. But I am still angry at myself for not being more. I am also angry at myself for not realizing what was happening until I was in over my head. Also, for not being a “good enough” mom in the aftermath when everyone was hurting and it was so hard to give grace out of my emptiness. I just accidentally typed that last word as emptimess. Yes, I am an empty mess sometimes.
I am angry at those who failed to protect me or who told me that I had no rights to speak up. I am angry at those who judged me for staying so long in my marriage. I am angry at those who have judged me for leaving. I am angry at those who are completely innocent and clueless, because I am jealous of their ignorance and their perfect untroubled lives. I wish I didn't know what I know.

I am sometimes angry at God, because he did know and it still happened. I could easily echo Naomi's words: “...the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

By now you must think of me as a total piece of work, a woman who spends her days fuming and foaming at the mouth, shaking her fists at heaven.

I don't.

I get up every day and live my life. I don't think about anger or bitterness most of the time. I forgive offenses as quickly as I can. I try to bless those who have mistreated me. I go to church and read the Bible and pray. I thank God for so many things.

Some people say that anger cannot co-exist with thankfulness. I disagree. I can be angry and thankful at the same time. I can be angry about an injustice – because it is WRONG and should be opposed – and yet still thankful for God's strength and provision for me within it.

Let's try it on my anger list above.

While I am angry that the man I married chose to act abusively, I am thankful that God has enabled me to still appreciate some of his good qualities. It is by the mercy of God that we can co-parent in relative peace now that we no longer live in the same home. He is still conscientious about providing for us and helping us out in many ways. Yes, I am thankful.

While I am angry at myself for not being "good enough" as a wife and mother, I am thankful that I am able to work through these issues with help from a counselor and take steps to make practical changes because they are right, not because they will get me approval. While I am angry about living in denial about the abuse for too long, I am thankful that did finally realize the problems and took action to keep my family safe. My kids know I love them even when we all mess up. I do know how to apologize. So do they. That helps. I am most thankful that I don't have to be good enough for God. He takes me where I am but doesn't leave me there. He is working in my heart and I see growth. That's good enough for me.

While I am angry that some others have not responded with (perfect) wisdom or compassion to my situation, I am thankful for those who have at least tried. I treasure the network of friends and family who have stood by me, encouraged me, and helped me in many practical ways. I am a voice to help others understand, not just my own story, but those of so many others vulnerable women and children. I can give courage to the oppressed, because I have been there, too, and I know what it's like. Yes, I sometimes resent those whose lives are relatively untroubled compared to mine, but I am thankful – really thankful! - that they have their untarnished peace and joy. I won't begrudge them that. Besides, they may in fact be fighting a secret battle I never see. That is a reminder to always be kind to everyone.

And the final one is sobering. While I am sometimes angry at God, I am thankful that he is big enough, strong enough, merciful enough to handle it. The Good Book says, “A bruised reed he will not break.” People will still make their poor choices, but he helps me to be resilient instead of brittle. I am thankful for that.

Oh my, this has turned out to be a really long guest post. I'd better stop now! Thanks for reading this far, and God bless!




Thank you so much, Mara! That was really an encouraging perspective on anger and thankfulness. God bless you, too!

May God bless us all.


Virginia Knowles

Monday, December 29, 2014

Love Light


Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,
I have to wring out the light
when I get home.


St. Francis of Assisi































I took all of the sky pictures you see here. I can't resist sunrise, sunset, clouds, tree silhouettes. It restores my soul when I am weary and doubting.

Such myriad ways he pours down his lavish love from on high.

As we start the new year, every once in a while, gaze at the sky and receive beauty.

Grace and peace,
Virginia


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Bad Boy and the Angel



While decorating for Christmas last week, I left this angel on the table. The next morning, I found her standing with my daughter's Ken doll. Apparently she was planning for them to get married as soon as she could find someone to officiate the wedding.

Something about the angel caught my eye. She was looking down, probably because she is supposed to be a tree topper smiling benevolently at the children below. However, standing right next to Ken, she seemed like she was sad and feeling shamed, like he was mad at her and she couldn't bear to look him in the eye.

In light of the series I have been writing on domestic violence, this image made me think of the dynamic between a Bad Boy and an Angel in a marriage. (By the way, for the purpose of this article, I'm the one who posed Ken with his hand up about ready to hit her.) I'm not talking about Bad Boy in the sense of an outward persona, like a guy with tats all over him. I've met plenty of nice guys with tats. In this post, I'm specifically talking about a man who abuses his wife and/or his children through manipulation, harassment, intimidation, and/or physical violence.

Here's a problem: If she is from a religious background that teaches strict gender roles, it is highly likely that she's been taught to put up with it.

She's the good girl, the Angel.

She is supposed to sweetly submit to whatever he dishes out.

If he is rough and brusque and forceful, he's just being manly.

If she protests, even tactfully, she's being rebellious.

You just need to submit! The Bible says women should submit!” he demands. “Why are you so contentious, woman!”

You just think you are so perfect and holy!” he accuses. “You think you're such an angel but you have as many problems as I do!”

Oh, you just want to be a LIB-ERRR-AAAATED WOOOOMAN! It's all about WOOMMMANN power!” he yells.

Ahem. What's the alternative? Slavery? What man in his right mind wants a woman to be in any kind of bondage or subjugation? A man who loves his wife does all he can to make sure she is liberated and empowered.

If Angel goes to her church for help, she might be told to try harder, be sweeter, submit to everything with a smile. She must not argue with Bad Boy. She must not separate from him. Or if she does separate, she must agree to work toward reconciliation. It's up to her to make this work. She's the good Christian girl. The Angel. Her family is counting on her. She's in this for life, right?

Let's snap back to reality, OK?

I'm all for intact families. I'm all for being patient and encouraging people to change.

But abuse is wrong.

If the marriage has moved from “difficult” to “dangerous” then a separation – even a permanent one - is absolutely justified.  Safety and sanity are the priority.

What then?

If Bad Boy is truly repentant and serious about change, fine. Let him prove it over a long period of time with no manipulation or pressure for reconciliation.

If Bad Boy continues with his behavior, or even if he plays nice when it suits him but keeps the same abusive attitude underneath, reconciliation will be a farce. How do you know that attitude is still there? Is he blame shifting? Is he describing you with words like disobedient, unsubmissive, or negligent? Is he trashing you in front of the kids? Is he trying to make you feel guilty for setting boundaries? Is he accusing you of being “holier than thou”? Is he interrogating you about things that are none of his business? Is he trying to keep you off balance emotionally? Is he insisting that if you really cared about God you would reconcile with him? Is he trying to control you, and criticizing you if you don't do things the way he wants? Does it seem like when he does something nice that he is trying to obligate you to do something for him? If things are not going his way, does he sulk, pout, or yell? Do you feel like you are still walking on eggshells around him?

My friend, if you are in an abusive marriage and you have been taught that you need to respect him anyway, consider this. A woman may think she is respecting her husband if she gives in to whatever he demands. But that is not respect at all. Instead, she is coddling him like a toddler who is having a tantrum. Respect is treating him like a full grown man who can take responsibility for his own actions and attitudes. If you respect him, you will expect him to man up. Bad Boy needs to get a grip and be a Big Boy for once. If not, he will have to face his consequences. You in turn will have to be strong enough to set your boundaries and stick by them. If that requires a separation or even a divorce, that's on him, not on you. If you have children, they are counting on you to protect them, not only from being abused themselves, but from even witnessing violence and intimidation.

What can "outsiders" do to either prevent abuse or intervene?

Parents: Raise your boys to be strong and gentle. Raise your girls to be strong and gentle. Teach integrity, responsibility, mutual respect, and compassion above everything else.

Pastors and counselors: Rethink your teaching on gender. Be sure you are not enabling abuse. If a woman comes to you for help, make sure she is safe in every way. Do not tell her to submit to abuse. Do not demand that she save her marriage at all costs. Do not tell her husband that she is the one who is out of line if she doesn't. Be like Jesus and do what is right.

Friends and relatives: If you see it happening or even suspect that it is, think hard about what you can do to intervene without causing more risk of harm. First, go to the woman with compassion and ask what you can do. Be supportive. Be discrete. Be love.

Everyone: Please read...