October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month–and today I thought we’d take a look at what too many Christian resources are NOT telling us about abuse.
It’s another edition of the Bare Marriage podcast, and I wanted to make sure that we had at least one instalment for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (just as we had a podcast about boobs for Breast Cancer Awareness month–October covers a lot of ground).
To start, I need to say upfront that I firmly believe that it’s okay to divorce for abuse. We didn’t argue that point in the podcast; we took it as a given.
Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:
Timeline of the Podcast
0:30 Domestic Violence Awareness Month
2:45 Gretchen joins us for the podcast: Is FOTF a safe resource?
17:15 So, how does divorce affect my kids?
20:30 What does ‘life-saving divorce’ mean?
26:20 Identifying Abuse
33:00 Seeing concerning abuse examples in Christian resources
Main Segment: What Are Christian Resources NOT Telling You About Divorce?
Focus on the Family and Divorce
Focus on the Family is supposed to be a safe resource for people seeking help with their marriage. But as we look at in this segment, the organization goes to great lengths–and even unethical lengths–to stop women from divorcing abusive men.
We started with looking at Focus on the Family’s take on divorce. This month, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, they’ve had some outstanding articles helping people recognize abuse–even spiritual abuse.
But there’s one thing you may not notice off the bat when you read those articles:
Even though they help people recognize abuse, they do not give people proper tools to deal with abuse, because they do not believe divorcing for abuse is allowed.
So they’ll say that you separate to get to safety, but the aim should be reconciliation. And if you can’t reconcile, then you stay separated (even though that has tremendous legal implications that put her and the kids in jeopardy).
They don’t advertise this, but if you call in to their helpline, this is what they advise. And on their handouts about divorce, they say the only reasons for divorce are adultery or lifetime abandonment (whatever that means).
Focus on the Family tends to treat all divorces as if they are frivolous and selfish, when we know that over half of divorces are for abuse or affairs.
As Gretchen says, they also misrepresent research saying that divorce is bad for kids ALWAYS–even though this isn’t true.
Gretchen has spent quite a bit of time analyzing Focus on the Family’s articles about why divorce hurts kids, and notes how they misrepresent all of the researchers they quote. Research has found that children DO BETTER if parents divorce in an abusive marriage, and yet Focus on the Family’s articles have encouraged women to stay in those abusive marriages.
Gretchen Baskerville is a Christian in the Los Angeles area who has been doing Christian divorce recovery ministry in churches since 1998. As you can imagine, she’s heard many many heartbreaking stories of betrayal and abuse. She’s become increasingly concerned that the church demonizes divorce, rather than recognizing that there are times when divorce can be life saving.
She is the author of the book The Life Saving Divorce.
How Do Christian Books Hide the Truth about Abuse?
Next, I read some excerpts from Christian books to Gretchen to get her take on the problems.
Christian books can distort abuse advice in one of two ways:
- They can correctly identify abuse, but then downplay its seriousness or not tell women (or men) to get to safety
- They can describe a dynamic that is obviously abusive, but not name it as such, making people believe they actually aren’t being abused
We looked at excerpts from Love & Respect, Power of a Praying Wife, Married Sex, and Every Man’s Battle.
Things Mentioned in This Podcast:
- Our Patreon: Support us for as little as $5 a month! It helps fund Rebecca and Joanna’s time as they write up research papers based on our data for academic journals, and get our research on new social media channels. Plus there are lots of perks for supporters!
- Gretchen’s book The Life Saving Divorce
- Gretchen’s article looking at 12 half truths in Focus on the Family’s article about divorce and kids; another article on how they misrepresent research around abuse; and how Focus on the Family’s view of divorce keeps changing
- Gretchen’s video on how Love & Respect impacted the people in her coaching groups; see the article version here
- My open letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect
- Gretchen’s Facebook Page, her Twitter, and her Instagram
- How to Know if You’re in an Abusive Relationship; How to Admit to Yourself that You’re being Abused; 10 Things to Know about Emotionally Destructive Relationships
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
Marital rape is the story in all too many Christian marriages. When we analyzed the top 13...
Often Christian Marriage teachers say “this is only for spouses in good marriages.” But spouses in destructive marriages listen! Here’s how to help all without harming some.
When churches and denominations deny people the chance to divorce for abuse, they also deny kids...
A podcast dissecting Dennis Prager’s bad advice about infidelity, and YouTube influencers Paul and Morgan with a case study on body language and identifying unhealthy dynamics.
20 Evangelical Denominations in the United States that do not condone divorce for abuse. Plus information on the effect this has on abuse victims, and how you can help change the policies.
Some pastors are not simply unsafe; they are downright dangerous. And some church elder's boards,...
What do you do if your wife tells you that she feels as if she has been raped? Or, if she doesn't...
What does it mean to be "unwilling" to have sex? We're in the middle of a series on the blog about...