Pastor Sylvia Prickitt, American Homeless, Tree of Hope: Domestic abuse
“Why do they keep going back, why do they stay?” As I work with women through Tree of Hope Ministries who have been and are abused, this is the question that observers ask of women who either stay in a relationship that is dangerous or keep going back their abuser. There isn’t just one reason for the choices women make. Some see themselves without any other options, some think they can change the abuser, some just don’t know how to get out of the cycle. For whatever reason, initial gut reflexes of “stay away” are ignored, red flags are ignored, friends drawing attention to red flags are ignored, and the situation spins out of control. The result is repeated abuse because the abuser sees no reason to change unless he/she are made aware of what they are doing, the abuser makes a choice to change, and that doesn’t happen most of the time. The result are injuries, PTSD, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, collateral damage to any children, and frustrated relatives and friends who can’t understand, and a victim who doesn’t know how to get out.
Don’t judge these victims. The Holy Bible says “judge not lest you be judged by the measure in which you judge others”- paraphrased from the book of Matthew. Jesus came over 2000 years ago to set an example to live and to teach what God meant when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Unless you actually are right there with the victim as he/she is going through the abuse, you have no idea what is being endured. Yes, there are lies told by the victim to themselves to justify the actions of the abuser and themselves. There are many instances in the Bible where people lied to protect themselves or others: Rahal for the spies, the Hebrew midwives for the women who gave birth and the infants were supposed to be killed, Abraham to protect Sarah, Peter to protect himself from the Pharisees when Jesus was arrested. If someone today is in an abusive situation, often they cannot tell others because of fear of true retribution. One individual in North Carolina sought help, but she returned to her abuser. The result was a “date” that turned into attempted murder: her abuser pushed her out of the door of his truck, dragged her by her leg, pulled her back in, left her bleeding almost to death on the floorboard of his truck in the parking lot of the hospital. By the grace of God, she survived, was flown to a trauma center and placed in protective custody. It took the brink of death for her to leave the abuser.
Abused women feel like they are lost-God doesn’t hear them, Jesus isn’t there, their families and friends abandon them. The abuser isolates them from everything and everyone to maintain control over them. These women are afraid. Fear paralyzes them. Sadly, pastors and counselors often do not have the understanding for these women that is needed, or those people who are meant to help feel uncomfortable in speaking to the victims.
To women who are abused, God’s intention for relationships is meant to be faithfulness to your partner, but He does not mean for anyone to be a punching bag, a piece of meat, or be mistreated through verbal abuse. 1 Peter tells us that Christ taught that a man was to treat a woman as if she were part of him, and that her prayers would help his be heard. A relationship is a partnership, not a slave/master, or subservient relationship. Partnership and companionship is what was intended from the beginning of our creation, Jesus taught that in His three years of ministry, and His apostles also reinforced it.
To those who are involved with helping abused women, don’t judge. Self-esteem and self-confidence is already bad. The victims have developed self-preservation techniques to ease the pain or avoid more abuse. There is going to be PTSD from the experience, there is going to be guilt, there is going to be emotional fall out and they need support, not judgement. If you see someone experiencing what you believe what may be abuse, give that person a chance to speak about it privately, away from other listeners, away from the abusers. The victim needs to feel safe. Understand there is likely a fear of any men. Nurses in one nursing school are taught to slip hotline phone numbers in free lip balm tubes, make up boxes, or any kind of camouflage that the abuser would not find and put the woman in jeopardy.
Women need to know that we have a special place in God’s plan and creation. We are not second class citizens; it was never intended for that to happen when God created men and women. It’s a partnership and we are all made in the likeness of God. Until the Gospel is redeemed, until God brings something to us very soon that will give us all the chance for hope and understanding, we need to remember that Jesus taught us to love each other as we would ourselves, to do to another as we would have done to us. There’s a lot of evil in the world and it seems like it is gaining control. God knows it, and He really does care. There is hope, and that Hope died on a Tree over 2000 years ago for all of us and was resurrected. It’s time for us to find Him and get ourselves right.
Tree of Hope Ministries, USA