I was invited and had the privilege of speaking at the For Such a Time as This Rally in Dallas, Texas. Our team had three goals to express to attendess of the Southern Baptist Convention:
#1 Treat women as equals like Jesus did.
#2 Establish a predator database.
#3 Mandatory training of pastors and seminarians regarding the handling of domestic abuse.
Although this was specifically for encouraging the Southern Baptist Convention held in Dallas, Texas, this week; my plea is to the universal church.
Below is the video of my talk. The generator went out moments before my turn to speak so we lost our mics, speakers, and live feed. Fortunately there was an iPad recording the event so we didn’t lose footage of the event. To listen to the rally you’ll have to turn up the volume. We were in sweltering heat, sun-baked and frying to a crisp, in the middle of downtown Dallas with city noise in the background; plus, a large open space absorbing my voice. I had to talk as loudly as possible to be heard by attendees and the media. I felt like I was screaming in an attempt to be heard which had me literally gasping for breath. Thanks to the Baptist disaster relief worker walking by who knew how to fix the problem and got the generator running again.
There are article links and the complete transcript included below.
The Oklahoman – There are several ads and links to scroll thru to completely read this article. There are also additional pictures of yesterday’s event to scroll through.
I’m Carolyn Deevers from St. Louis, MO. I minister to women living in, or leaving, destructive marriages, and I write at Spiritual Battles.org about toxic relationships, abusive marriages and how God has used my prayers to navigate me through these life issues.
I’m here today speaking from experience as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse by my former husband who was a pastor and a pedophilic offender. He’s now in prison for the rest of his life.
I’ve often heard people respond doubtfully, or roll their eyes, at the term emotional abuse. Let me clear up this misconception. I’ve endured all forms of abuse, but the one that was the most damaging, caused multiple health issues and repeatedly, most deeply wounded my heart, soul, mind and strength was emotional abuse.
I’m talking today because the church needs training on how to recognize and respond to allegations of domestic abuse, and because the evangelical church is long overdue on creating a database for tracking offenders.
Why are we so adamant about this you may ask? Allow me to ask you a question. When you hear the clopping of horse hooves what do you think of? Horses, right? But no, they aren’t horses; they’re zebras. These toxic men are the ‘zebras’ in this analogy. They are grand actors and magnificent manipulators. They may be sitting next to us in worship, Sunday school, or small group. They can be pastors, Sunday school teachers, our best friend, charming, smart, and biblically brilliant. They can be high functioning in their job, helpful in our time of need, and financially generous if hardship strikes us; all while destroying the wife and children at home.
It’s not just in the home though.
I hear from Christian women, pastor’s wives, and missionary’s wives around the globe who tell of angry, controlling men in places of leadership. These men would be fired in corporate America if they condescendingly talked down to, objectified, or told women their opinion didn’t matter since they aren’t a man. Yet, these things happen in some churches and we don’t bat an eye or grimace.
Some of these abusive personality types have gained places of high status within our churches, and their unbiblical view of women has trickled down through the ranks.
I recently read that Bible teacher and well-known author, Beth Moore, came to the same conclusion. She wrote there have been “attitudes among some key Christian leaders that smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women and it spread like wildfire.”
This is often the attitude abused women receive when they go to church leadership for help.
Dear Church, Jesus spent time on earth breaking cultural rules and traditions to love, heal, and bring women to the life God intended for them. Women were never an afterthought, or a second class citizen to Jesus. He didn’t deny, cover-up, enable, justify, or excuse anyone’s sin. Jesus would have been the one bringing this oppression to light; leaving no need for the #MeToo movement. Like Jesus, we need to come from a place of love; not a place of inconvenience or disbelief.
Unfortunately, I rarely hear of the church being a safe place for abused or assaulted women. The abuse is often minimized while they are told to continue submitting to their husband and/or forgiving their perpetrator.
My message to the church is:
- Please don’t criticize women or question their timing when they come forward. We have no idea how long it took them to come to the realization that they weren’t the unstable party in the relationship after years of hearing everything was their fault.
- Don’t tell them what to do. They’ve been controlled for years and they need to learn to make their own decisions and be able to live with them.
- Often women are retraumatized by their pastor or someone in the church and are met with unbelief, church discipline, or expulsion. What they need is validation, a listening ear, prayer, and gifts of practical service and/or financial help.
It seems the church is the least safe place to deal with domestic abuse. I’m not asking you to learn how to counsel these women; I’m asking you to recognize domestic abuse and abusers, respond correctly to assault victims and refer these hurting souls to professionals who know how to meet their needs. And…when someone comes to us with allegations of a crime; our only choice is to call the authorities and allow them to investigate; no matter our personal opinion. Remember: Abusers are word spinners who tell half-truths and justify their behavior. When the woman is divulging the abuse and the man explains, justifies, minimizes, spiritualizes, and denies the severity of what she is describing; you are looking at the number one sign of dealing with an abuser; denial.
Let me clarify that not all professionals; in fact few, know how to help abusers which often makes them ineffective or harmful to the wife/survivor. (See today’s free resource sheet for help).
Please hear this:
- God does not expect us to place the institution of marriage above the safety, sanity and health of women and children.
- Couples counseling does not work for domestic abuse. They don’t need marital counseling. The abuser needs help for their abusive personality.
- When teaching about marriage say something like this: Today we’re talking about a normal, marriage. If you’re in a destructive, abusive marriage where there is physical, sexual, verbal, financial, spiritual (I accidently left spiritual out at the rally), withholding, or emotional abuse by an angry and controlling spouse; please know we want to help you.
Statistics tell us that domestic abuse escalates with time and that abusers have little to no success rate for recovery (because they don’t desire to change); much like pedophilic offenders according to Don Hennessy, former director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency.
Because of this we need to put away the one size fits all, “God hates divorce” mantra. God hates the ongoing, active trauma that violates the wife.
Without intense training you can’t help the victim because of the academy award-winning performance the abuser is giving you. This is one reason you need a database.
Sex crimes investigators and prosecutors across our nation agree that some predators (and people with narcissistic personality disorder) go to Christian college and seminary to gain lifetime access to an endless supply of victims. These professionals also say that with the rise of internet pornography they are seeing women becoming predators.
Please consider this list of concerns when designing a database for the recording of patterns/behavior if they should continue for years:
- Ministry allegations
- Church discipline
- Evidence that led to divorce
- Sex offender registry
This is essential to safe-guarding the people entrusted to your care.
Here are examples of why a database would have been helpful based on my experience with my former husband.
- Lost ministries multiple times for being angry, controlling and deceitful to leadership.
- Lost a ministry for grooming and molesting of young children without charges ever being filed.
- Allegations of unfaithfulness.
- Again being investigated for grooming and crimes against children. In the middle of this investigation he found a new senior pastor position at another church.
He had a 30 year history. He attended summer church camps where he slept next to young boys in the dorms and he travelled internationally as an evangelist working in orphanages.
In the middle of the last investigation he obtained a senior pastor position at another church. No one ever called to ask me why I left him or why I had his parental rights revoked. I kept psychological and psychiatric test results, doctors’ notes on their official letterhead, and prescription receipts; for serious and some dark psychiatric disorders; database worthy documents. Most people live a normal life with their mental illnesses; with pedophilia thrown in the mix; he did not. He continued landing ministries because there was no ministry database.
Here is my challenge: Please, go back to your churches or institutions and schedule mandatory domestic abuse training for your staff and anyone who holds a place of leadership so you’ll be ready next time. And please, develop and begin using a database.