Faith leaders often serve as “first responders” to domestic abuse and sexual assault. Unfortunately, pastors and lay leaders report feeling ill-equipped to respond to these incidences in their congregations and communities. With your help, we can call on theological schools across the country to equip faith leaders to respond effectively to sexual and domestic violence.
“What do I do, Dr. Samples? I love him. I want to forgive him."
When Ephesians 5:21-24 is heard in faith communities, it is often met with trepidation.
There are many reasons for divorces and one of them is domestic violence. It’s true that there are women and men who experience domestic violence and never leave the marriage; they only want to cleave while others leave for their dear life. Domestic violence can be viewed as family violence but there are family members from whom we may rarely hear in these situations, namely children. Most certainly, domestic violence impacts the perpetrator and victim yet if there are children in the same space, they, too, will be affected. They, too, may even be beaten, battered, and bruised.
When I first read about the rape of Tamar, I was astonished. This tragic story of a beautiful princess — sexually violated by her half-brother and then betrayed by her powerful father — left me aghast. What could I do with this troubling tale, tucked among pages of scripture where I sought spiritual guidance?
Throughout my life in the church, I had never heard the name “Tamar.” No reference to this daughter of King David. No remembrance of her profound suffering and grief.
It’s not an easy story to hear, especially within the biblical narrative of God’s love and providential care for God’s people. It’s like a well-guarded family secret no one dares mention, as if it might swell into a crushing typhoon, leaving devastation in its wake. Following tradition, I hoped not to encounter Tamar’s story again.
If shunning the ancient biblical story of Tamar is all too easy, avoiding news of unrelenting violence against women is becoming harder.
Without question, abuse ministry—including abuse education—has been the most challenging (and the most rewarding) of all the ministries we’ve experienced. Abuse creates soul damage, including high levels of toxic shame. It creates confusion and pain for those who try to help victims, so it is challenging to teach students about abuse, as it can trigger past trauma. Finally, one of the greatest challenges we’ve faced domestically and globally when educating others about abuse is patriarchy. Until one comes to recognize the prevalence and malevolence of patriarchy, it is difficult to understand, let alone deal with, abuse in the church.