A Personal Story and a Sad Conclusion When Pastors Failed to Respond Appropriately to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, Church response, Rob Porter


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You may have heard in the news recently about Rob Porter who worked for President Trump in the White House. Porter recently resigned his position as White House Staff Secretary after allegations of domestic violence from his two ex-wives surfaced in the media. It was disheartening to hear that both women reported the abuse to elders in their churches and to counselors. Somehow, he was able to get a job in the White House, although it was known by White House staff months before his resignation. (Source)

“When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career,” Willoughby wrote in a blog post last year, adding later, “Friends and clergy didn’t believe me. And so I stayed.”

She also told The Intercept that when she went to her bishop about Porter’s anger issues, he cautioned that it could hurt Porter’s image. “Keep in mind, Rob has career ambitions,” she recalled the local LDS leader saying, according to the online news outlet.

“It wasn’t until I went to a secular counselor at my workplace one summer and told him what was going on that he was the first person, and not a male religious leader, who told me that what was happening was not OK,” she told the Daily Mail. (Source)

Although the above example was in the LDS church, I’ve written a number of blog articles about domestic violence in Evangelical Christian churches, and many times the response is the same.

Here is where I stand on this issue at the moment. If someone contacts me about domestic violence, I am very leery to encourage them to talk to their pastor or church leaders unless they know that their church has a proven record of helping survivors of domestic violence and has plans in place. Time and again, these women are subjected to secondary harm: spiritual abuse and emotional harm by their spiritual leaders who do not know how to handle these cases appropriately.

This tweet I saw recently was profound!

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Yesterday, a comment came in on this post: Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence, but since it is an older post, not many will read it. I have posted the comment below. It needs to be read. Is this the outcome the church wants? Then church leaders need to get their collective acts together and help the survivors, and report the perpetrators!

I am so freakin’ tired of these stories!


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When I went to my pastor for help he would not even meet with me, he sent his wife instead. All she had to say, despite me being very clear that I was in fear for my safety, in addition to the emotional torment I was subjected to for years, was to keep praying for God to soften his heart. I was told to look inward and ask God to help me be the best godly wife I could be, because I should be the example of God’s love to my husband. My husband would see God working in me, as evidenced by me not fighting back, being submissive, always staying calm even in the midst of his chaos, and loving & respecting my husband despite how he was treating me.

When I did finally tell my husband I was filing for divorce, even though I had repeatedly been told that God hates divorce, I endured the worst physical assault ever dished out by him. I had a knife pulled on me, was threatened with death, and my 4-year old son ripped from my arms as I tried to flee after being held hostage for hours. I was finally able to get to a phone.

He went to jail. The divorce was finalized 3 months later. I called the pastor’s wife to tell her what happened. I got the standard, “I’m so sorry, if you need anything let us know.” I had no job, he had taken money from our account and hid it. I had 60 days to move out before the protective order expired.

I never got a call from the pastor, or his wife, checking on me. Instead, the pastor was talking with my husband, because according to my pastor, “It takes two to fight and divorce was not the answer.” Again, it was my fault. All the church ever did was put the onus on me to be a better wife, pray for him, and extend him grace because his heart was hardened. No responsibility on the abuser. No support was offered to me, not even any kind words.

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I left the church forever at that point.

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I had already been made to feel like I just needed to do better, and now, I was the sinful one for leaving. I left the church forever at that point. And I left the misguided teachings of an ancient misogynist book we call the bible, behind as well.

My story is not unique and that is the problem. My story is rampant in churches across the entire world. Quite frankly, I came to the conclusion that if God really loved the church, He wouldn’t have allowed man to destroy it. But man has destroyed it because man built it, just as man wrote the book that dictates the lives of people that attend it. I finally realized it was all false teachings.

I refuse to believe in a God that allows this to happen – that allows his teachings to become so twisted that women literally die because they are told not to leave. I don’t want any part of it. And letting go of all of it was the most freeing thing ever.

But to all of you in the church that enable this to happen, that do nothing more than say “well those people aren’t real Christians.” you are failing your own make-belief god, because his church is the very reason that I no longer buy into the fantasy. My son was traumatized beyond what any of you could imagine, and I will not ever teach him that God will use his horrific experience to help others, or that this was all part of a divine plan. Unlike the Godly father, I will do everything to protect my son, never allowing him to think that his suffering is justified, so that it could glorify the holy narcissist in the sky.

These teachings, that boom, and the man-made institution of the church are dangerous. I’m glad this site is speaking out as if some people have enough sense to know that the sanctity of marriage is never more important than the sanctity of life, but it is too late for me. We would have been spared a lot had it not been for the fact that God hates marriage so much. Who cares about an eternity in hell if you are already living it here on this planet? At least I’m safe now, my son is safe, and I’ll gladly burn forever to stand up and speak out against a church and a God that allows this to happen to women.

 

 

photo credit: heinltier emotions via photopin (license)