Churches Often No Help To Battered Spouses Advice To ‘Turn Other Cheek’ Won’t End Cycle Of Violence
A distraught woman goes to her pastor for advice after learning her husband sexually abused her teenage daughter.
The minister tells her if she takes care of her husband’s sexual needs, the incest wouldn’t happen.
A woman beaten by her husband calls on a priest for help, gets none, then continues living for years in an abusive relationship.
Those examples - related Tuesday during a domestic violence seminar - show women have trouble turning to their churches for help.
Often, clergy counsel them to be forgiving and submissive rather than help them find a way to break the cycle of violence, critics argue.
Too often, pastors urge abused women to “turn the other cheek” rather than get help or desperately needed counseling, said Rev. Brenda Tudor, who spoke at the seminar organized by the Spokane County Domestic Violence Consortium.
“If you jump in as a pastor and say, ‘A good Christian can forgive,’ all you’ve done is help them into the next (violent) act,” said Tudor, pastor at Moran United Methodist Church.
“This is not God’s plan. God’s not saying, ‘Buck up and handle it.”’
Al Holm, a former pastor who is a police chaplain in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, said reminding battered women of their “submissive” role in a Christian marriage isn’t appropriate.
“There are many pastors that aren’t trained in the realities of domestic violence,” said Holm. “Most seminaries don’t include it in their training.”
Holm said he got plenty of on-thejob training as a police chaplain who often deals with domestic violence victims.
“When you’re out there and you see the blood and the cuts and the teeth, pretty soon it starts to sink in,” said Holm, who is planning a training program for clergy.
Monica Boyd, a pastor at Audubon Park United Methodist Church, said pastors may help “perpetuate the cycle of abuse” by urging victims to stay in violent relationships.
“The church has been the secretkeeper,” said Boyd. “The church, being the bigger family, we keep those secrets.”
Issues such as domestic violence unnerve many church members, who would prefer sermons stick to more traditional topics, she said.
Boyd said she wishes domestic violence would come out of the closet in more churches and is helping plan four church seminars in the next month on abuse.
About 250 people attended the seminar at Sacred Heart Medical Center’s Providence Auditorium. Other speakers included professional counselors, a prosecutor and police officers.