Domestic violence, evangelical churches, #churchDV #churchtoo
On Twitter, I saw a thread by Kaitlin @TuffTaffy who posted about the connection between the church and an abusive spouse. I asked Kaitlin permission to share it here and wanted it to open it up for conversation. I have compiled and edited them for easier reading below. Further down, you can find the original tweets. ~Julie Anne
For many women, the church is like an abusive spouse. Hear me out.
Intimate partner violence can be demonstrated in two ways: through the Power and Control Wheel and the Cycle of Violence.
The Cycle of Violence usually looks like this: Tension builds, an explosion happens, a honeymoon follows. All shrouded in denial. This graphic shows typical victim response to the violence in an attempt to prevent it.
The Power and Control Wheel explains all the ways an abuser can perpetrate. This graphic shows that abuse is not always physical, but includes things like gaslighting, emotional manipulation, and even asserting privilege.
We like to think of the Church as a safe space, but for many women, the Church is not benign. I can point to all the examples of churches harboring and empowering abusers and the sexual abuse that permeates the environment, but I want to look at something even more prevalent.
Complementarianism is a theology that says men and women are different. Different roles, same worth. However, the role of the male is always in the forefront, and the role of the woman is always in the background.
Complementarian churches teach things like “modest is hottest” and tell women that their worth is in their relationships with men (wife, mother, daughter). Their sexuality is seen as a prize won by and given to a man. Their relationship with God is determined by a man.
Their gifts are restricted, and they are told what to do and when to do it and how to do it. They are asked not to think or create unless a man tells them to think it or create it.
Anything they want to do becomes an agenda or debate. It becomes an “issue.” Women who question that are suspect and need to be put in their place or put out altogether.
So two things start to happen. The church asserts its power over her by telling her that her salvation is at risk and she begins to do everything she can to please it. When something happens that shakes the church’s authority, the woman is made to feel embarrassed and sinful.
This is toxic stuff. So, for women finding themselves in abusive relationships with churches, I say to you what I say to women caught in domestic violence: Get out! Run. And then go to professional therapy, and love yourself again. #churchtoo
Original tweets as shown on Twitter:
35 thoughts on “Church: how it can be like an abusive spouse for some women”
Mostly agree, although I’ve NEVER seen a church apologize for abusing members. I think that is the problem with comp/patriarchal doctrine is that is creates a theological framework where members are under constant threat of eternal punishment should they not respect and obey what the church says.
I’ve known people who are abused by the church, and the church is always using spiritually threatening language, like “people in situations like yours who have left have ultimately walked away from Christianity” or “their car broke down, they lost their jobs, their house burned down” or other threats of divine punishment.
One example I can think of that mostly matches – a committee leader was subjected to abuse of authority by one of the church leaders. The board supposedly recognized that and put another board member as a liason, but, as far as I know it only worked for a short time. The committee leader left the church, and apparently the board couldn’t figure out why.
The response to that statement is a resounding, “Of COURSE it is!” (Which I’ve been saying for . . . How many posts?). I would, however, change one word of that – ‘some’ women should be replaced with ‘many’ women, which I see she did in her first line. 😦
As she’s pointed out, the dynamics are exactly the same.
The word change was my fault, Carmen. I went back and forth on it. I was trying to think of what word would cause more people to read this – lol. I don’t know if I failed or not.
In my opinion the word choice is a moot point – you are widely respected and thus, widely read.
Pics of graduation soon, I suspect? Hope you bought a bottle of bubbly. . . 🙂
We women who have experienced abuse at home and in church subconsciously know them to be the same for a long time before saying it to ourselves out loud. It’s all been shrouded in “godness”, creating great confusion. There mostly is no one to say it to. I regret losing so many years, trying to create truth out of abusive lies told to me and other women, week after week, (in homes) and inside that place called “The House Of God”.
Yes, I ran, finally. I am in therapy and I enjoy my new weekend 8-4 job, Sat & Sun.
Just picked up my cap and gown yesterday. Yes, I will definitely get my favorite bottle(s) of bubbly. My daughter is flying in from Chicago. My brother and mom (hopefully dad) are coming. Two more assignments and 2 finals (take home finals). The end is near!
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I am glad you are free, Celeste. That sounds wonderful 🙂
Congratulations!! I know you’ve worked hard for. Get the good stuff 🙂
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If men and women are “created equal” then they are also “equally accountable.” That is one mistake of the anti-complementarian crowd.
A woman who “embezzles money” from her employer or from her father-in-law’s account is still an embezzler even though she is a woman.
But yes, men ARE accountable JUST AS MUCH as women to do right “for others” instead of just for themselves.
All in all, the bible gives an example of the power of God in women’s lives through the example of Mary and Elizabeth. Bother were women under “complementarian” rule. Both were in the “extremes” of pregnancy conditions. Both went through a miraculous conception and child-bearing process. Does this mean that the women were “mis-treated” under complementarian rule? No. That isn’t the point of Christianity in the first place, to take away “fathers from their children” especially if the fathers are “doing what is right” in the eyes of the Lord (only slave owners would tell you do what is best for MEN……and not for the children)…..
Essentially, the issue is NOT the condition of men “being the head of the woman”….. the issue is “men AND women not being accountable”…..
This is not a position of egalitarians. Not sure what you’re on about with the rest of your comment.
For example: Lori Alexander is a POPULAR complementarian blog writer. The conditions of her writing in favor of women encouraging “father’s in the home” is not the “bad guy” in her writing. The “bad guy” in her writing is when she doesn’t seek to uplift the women in any sort of situation like terrible financial burden, racism issues, illness in the father (which means a woman needs to work for the home to function), forcing women to believe that every woman needs to bear 20 children, forcing every man to “be like white men,” faking the idea that women can never go on a vacation -alone- etc etc……
Some men are more gullible and filled with folly in general even though they may not ever have an issue with abuse.
“This is not a position of egalitarians. Not sure what you’re on about with the rest of your comment.”
Somewhat the idea is that egalitarian beliefs may, from time to time, come up with the notion that women are “no longer accountable.” Which in a divine sense of rational judgment doesn’t make sense.
For instance, a woman may become a “college professor.” (name any other careers men performed in the past but women partake today). But the college campus have “professional standards” just as in any other environment where professionalism is involved. If SHE was involved sexually or otherwise she would be held to the SAME professional standards of judgment as if were a “male pastor” “male youth leader” or any other -creature- for that matter. Essentially, if a woman knows she can’t “control her self” with “the student” she would be wise to take up a career as a …..farmer…..or ahem…..a homemaker/janitor, to save the embarrassment later on.
“Essentially, if a woman knows she can’t “control her self” with “the student” she would be wise to take up a career as a …..farmer…..or ahem…..a homemaker/janitor, to save the embarrassment later on.”
If the woman is a child molesting pervert she should be locked away in prison where she does not have access to children.
The reason we hear about these things is generally because they have 1. Gotten caught and 2. Been prosecuted and 3. People find a woman doing these things novel and noteworthy, so they are reported on. Men do them all the time, and no one seems to say they should be out of all professions. anongrace’s argument is nonsensical.
anongrace, ‘Somewhat the idea is that egalitarian beliefs may, from time to time, come up with the notion that women are “no longer accountable.”’
That’s more of a complementarian belief. They take the female vows law in the OT and claim that a daughter or wife is not accountable to even their own word, because the father or husband can override it. That concept is still enshrined when it comes to a minor. I heard that once a dealer sold a car to a minor. The minor took the car out and crashed it, and when the father heard what had happened, he voided the contract and the dealer had to eat the cost of the car. https://www.doityourself.com/stry/legal-issues-when-selling-a-car-to-a-minor
Actually the argument is NOT non-nonsensical.
a. teen age boys grow “fast” in their teen years and look like they could be aged 27 years old and above. So a woman looking “for some” could go for anything she finds attractive.
b. They need to check “ids” to allow people to purchase cigarettes and alcohol and anyone who looks like they are under the age of 40 could FAKE himself to be above the age of 18…..so anything can (and does happen).
c. Some people go through a non-professionalism phase and desire to return to the tribal days…..the days where there were no rules about relationship conditions and standards. In tribal groups women “pick up” multiple male partners.
d. When Kim Kardashian is setting the standards about what it means to hold standards of purity and goodness for humanity, well, some who are not wise are not so good in their choices, even if they claim to be professional spiritual leaders (male or female).
e. I have heard of a woman who was married who was STILL feeding on her “online lovers”…….and the husband was not getting any attention.
The examples could go on and on about how women cannot “save her self” from these issues and more. They have special “homes” for women who are severely abused or self-defeating themselves in their relationships and conduct for a reason.
anongrace, respectfully, nothing you said has anything to do with the topic at hand, or egalitarian thought. When you tell me your argument is not nonsensical then immediately refer to Kim K. as the standard for purity you tell me that you are not serious. We are talking about the church here, and equal treatment of women. That is all I have to say.
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anongrace, “The examples could go on and on about how women cannot “save her self” from these issues and more.”
I could give the same sorts of examples about men. I think the question here is, do all these examples prove some conclusion that women are somehow less able to restrain themselves than men?
Intriguingly, this was the comp. argument that kept women at home for potentially thousands of years – that women were so worldly and lustful that the only way to keep them pure and chaste was for them to be ‘keepers of the home’. It was so bad at Jesus’s time that a wife who was caught ‘with her hair down’ was assumed to be guilty of adultery and could be divorced for cause.
About the end of the 1800’s, feminists tried to argue that women were actually just as honorable and pure as men, and surprisingly, that argument caught on. However, the result is that women are now the ‘pure and chaste’ keepers of the home.
But, consider the “modesty” argument. The basis of this argument is that ‘pure and chaste’ girls are expected to cover themselves up, lest ‘raging hormonal men’ lust after them. The core of that argument MUST BE that women are considered more pure than men, because no one would ever say that the stereotypically less righteous person should take responsibility for the purity of the more righteous. It would be like inviting frat members to babysit your kids, or paying the guy at the freeway exit to guard your wine cellar.
“Kim Kardashian is setting the standards about what it means to hold standards of purity and goodness for humanity,”
Why do you think she is doing this? From what I hear MOST people hate her. I go to fashion blogs and all the women commenting on them are telling magazines to “quit putting that boring skank and her shallow sisters on the cover of your magazines.”
It looks like the Kardashians just have the best publicist in the history of Hollywood. With all the fashion reading I do and all the little girl cousins I have I have never heard of anyone that likes her. Someone started a boycott of US Vogue because they put her on the cover.
Her husband was in W magazine calling himself God while saying he is a Christian. Kim got famous for releasing a sex video of her and Brandy’s little brother but pretended it was released without her consent. Most people know this and think it is embarrassing. From what I have read most people hate her and Kanye.
It seems publicist have all the talent in Hollywood, not the people they are putting on the magazines and in the news.
So sad, there are pastors in the Visalia area that treat congregants like this too. Maybe, more education is the key.
TED Talk I came across at YouTube:
Touches on many points that come up in this blog.
HUG -. That was a powerful video!
Julie Anne, Congratulations on successfully completing your education and getting a degree!
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I’ve only skimmed down some of the posts in this thread, and from what I can see of anongrace’s posts here, they’re similar to posts in previous threads:
Where a topic may be aimed primarily at discussing male sexism against women, or male abuse of girls and women, anon-grace (and one or two other posters on a previous thread), try to make it a “but women too!” type thread.
It’s very troubling to me how threads or topics meant to address typical male- on- female mistreatment gets distorted and derailed to talk about “women- on- men” misbehavior or “women- on- women” misbehavior by some participants.
I’ve been on this blog for about what, 3 years now(?), and I don’t remember seeing any non-complementarians claim that all women are blameless, without sin, or should not be held accountable if they commit wrong-doing: those are straw-man arguments
Further, I detect a whiff or under-currrent of misogyny or sexism in such posts. These types of posters (who like to argue, “but women too!!”) might feel more comfortable posting to a M.R.A. (“Men’s Rights”), Jordan Peterson fan club, MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), or “incel” blog, forum, or group.
I wonder why these types of people post here? Are they trying to convince me to re-join complementarianism?
_When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men (And how the stereotype flipped.)_
Wow I can relate to this! It’s hard to explain to people who have never been in that type of environment, how difficult it is to “just leave ” a church. Like any other abusive relationship, you have the fear of the unknown keeping you there. You know it’s not healthy but it’s familiar. Then you have the doubts creeping up in your mind. “Everyone else seems so happy here. There must be something wrong with me. Am I crazy? ” “This doesn’t make sense but it’s for my own good, isn’t it? ” My husband and kids were happy there which was why I stayed 2 years longer than I wanted to. I had to wait until THEY were ready before we finally left. Thankfully now we’re all on the same page and finally on the road to recovery.
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Daisy, yes, that’s the article I read on the subject.
I left a church that tried to control me on several fronts and shamed me for being single. I am 52, female, never married. I have a good job, and I was tithing when I was a member. This church was an abusive “spouse” shaming me for having no spouse. I was confronted in public by pastors and others about this or that, calling me uncultured; the place had no love. I had terrible feelings after I left, but I had to come to terms that they were cruel, including the pastors. They lost my tithe and service when I left. That is their loss. I am told things have changed, but I do not intend to go back. The pastor’s attitude about marriage did not change; he thinks that marriage grows people up. (People do not grow up because they marry; my parents married 55 years ago, which did not stop them from being entitled, abusive and narcissistic.) Leaving this type of church is crucial, but regaining sanity after such an experience takes time. I had to realize that certain attitudes will never change with them.
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Absolutely Maggie. It’s crazy how people think this, when there is so much evidence to the contrary!
I’m sorry your church shamed you for being single. Sometimes you just have to leave a place like that.
This was an interesting read for me. I have recently left an abusive husband. He denies that he is abusive; says that I’m depressed and exaggerating and that it’s just normal marital arguments that we have. I was advised by professionals to get myself and my children away from him.
All along my church leaders have acted as if they don’t quite believe me. They know him too; they don’t see any evidence that the children are scared of him. They want to restore and support him just as much as me. At times they seemed to get it. But now, in our most recent meeting, the pastor told me he felt that the relationship was mutually abusive. There is an unspoken pressure and expectation that we need to just work things out, I should give him another chance, I’m just as bad as him etc etc. One of the elders told me I couldn’t serve God any more if I got divorced. I’d never thought about it in the way this article puts it, but it makes sense. Acting on their advice certainly made the situation worse rather than better, and I feel I cannot trust them any more.
Hi Liz, thanks for sharing about your experience. It sure does make sense that it would be difficult to trust your church leaders. What a difficult place to be! Ugh!
I’m sorry for how they’ve acted Liz and I’m glad you are getting away.
What I don’t get about this line of thinking is people thinking they know someone better than a spouse because they interact with him, max, a few hours a week? That’s not rational.
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Lea, I don’t get that either. They are not the ones who have to live with it. And even when they hear what I have to say, it doesn’t make any difference to their attitude. They don’t understand that an abuser is very clever at hiding what he’s really like. They think that my husband is just a nice guy with a few problems; even then, the promised weekly meeting to help “counsel” him was sporadic and reinforced the abuse cycle. But apparently I’m the one with the problem because I won’t let my husband lay hands on me and pray for me.