How Should Churches Minister To Abused Women?

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How should churches minister to abused women? And what does biblical submission look like when husbands fail to love and honor their wives? This week on The Roys Report, we’ll be tackling this sensitive, yet critically important issue with Judi Noble—an abuse survivor and counselor with decades of experience ministering to abused and battered wives. Listen and join the discussion this Saturday morning at 11 a.m. 1160 Hope for Your Life and Sunday at 7 p.m. on AM 560 The Answer. 

This Weeks Guests
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Judi Noble

  • Judi Noble is a domestic violence survivor, who started Eagle’s Wings Organization in 1996 and is still the acting Executive Director. She has channeled her passion to see that women and their children live in a free, safe and loving environment.
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  • Judi is an author, public speaker, certified domestic violence advocate/counselor, Biblical counselor, and certified life coach. 
  • She now pursing the ordination track through the Free Methodist Church.

Ms. Noble life’s work is to ensure that survivors of domestic violence are treated with justice, dignity, and honor 

Show Transcript

Segment 1

JULIE ROYS:  Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m so glad you’re with us. I am Julie Roys. And today, we’re going to be tackling an extremely important topic in the church, but one that, sadly, rarely gets addressed. And that is the issue of abusive marriages and how the church should minister to abused women. 

As some recent scandals have shown, this is an area where the church definitely needs to grow. Last year, you may remember, there was a controversy involving a prominent Southern Baptist preacher and seminary president, Paige Patterson. And at the center of that controversy was Patterson’s advice for abused women. 

Patterson was asked, for example, whether he condones abused women seeking a divorce. Patterson said that he’s never counseled anybody to seek a divorce. He said, on occasions when the abuse is “serious enough” or “dangerous enough,” he has suggested temporary separation. But he added that most abuse is, and I quote, “of a less serious variety.” On another occasion, Patterson admitted that he had urged a woman who was being abused by her husband to stay in her abusive marriage and to pray for her husband. Later, this woman, reportedly, arrived at church with two black eyes, and she asked Patterson if he was pleased. Patterson said he was pleased because apparently, that morning the husband had come to church and prayed to receive Christ. Well, many in the church found Patterson’s responses shocking. Patterson has since been removed from his position as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. And there were some other issues involved with that, with Patterson as well.

But many people say these kinds of responses and attitudes are rampant in the church. Just last week, I published the first of two articles about abused women at Harvest Bible Chapel. These women say the church failed to protect them, but instead protected their abusive husbands. And instead of rescuing them from a nightmare marriage, the church prolonged and even exacerbated the issue. And if you want to read those articles, you can read them at my website:  JulieRoys.com.

But just how should churches respond when, well, when women indicate that they’re being abused? And what constitutes abuse? And what are the signs of abuse that pastors and lay people should look for?

Well, joining me today is someone who can help us with those answers. Her name is Judi Noble. And she’s a certified domestic violence advocate and counselor with decades of experience helping abused and battered women. She’s also the founder and executive director of Eagle’s Wings—an organization that treats both abused and abusers. And she’s the author of Radical Reconciliation, a book that tells her story of fleeing an abusive marriage when she was pregnant with her first child. So Judi, welcome! It is a pleasure to have you join me! 

JUDI NOBLE:  It is an honor to be with you, Julie. Thank you so much.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I am really looking forward to discussing this issue because I think it’s so important and often so overlooked. But Judi, can you just start by helping us understand the nature and the scope of this issue. I’ve heard that as many as 1 in 3 women have been abused by an intimate partner. That’s an absolutely stunning statistic. But from your perspective, from your experience, would you say that’s accurate?

JUDI NOBLE:  That is very accurate. Yes. It’s very under-reported at times, too, just because of the shame that correlates with the abuse. But the statistics show 1 in 3 women, yeah.

JULIE ROYS:  And what about in the church? Is it any different in the church? I mean we’d like to think that people who follow Jesus Christ and claim to be professing Christians, that they’re different, that there isn’t this abuse?

JUDI NOBLE:  That’s true. That is the hope and the desire. And I know that’s the desire of Christ. However, it is not much different. It’s 1 in 4 have been or are being abused right now in the church. And again, it goes under-reported so we’re not quite as sure if the statistics are accurate. But from our scope, it’s fairly accurate.

JULIE ROYS:  So, where do you get those statistics from and those kinds of studies? Is it just sort of self-reporting from churches or how do you try to measure that?

JUDI NOBLE:  Actually, it is some self-recording from churches. It’s what we do here. And it’s also—there was a report, I think it was a Huffington report, about 2 years ago, that did a thorough investigation of abuse and these statistics.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, as you say, it often goes under-reported. And it, and I was just talking to someone, actually for my second report, which will be coming out soon. And actually, if you want to make sure that you don’t want to miss that, you can go to my website and sign up for updates and you’ll get that article as soon as it posts. But the woman I talked to said she gave a lot of signs of abuse. But she didn’t come out and she said now she’s an abuse counselor. She said, she never had somebody come to her and say my husband hits me or my husband forces himself on me. That rarely happens. She said there are signs that you need to look for and when somebody is being abused, there’s sort of some telltale signs. But we have to be aware of them. Would you say that’s accurate?

JUDI NOBLE:  Very accurate, yes.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah. So why is it, I mean, one, why is it that women aren’t more forthcoming about abuse? And then, what should we be looking for?

JUDI NOBLE:  I think the number one reason why they’re not forthcoming is fear and shame. And especially in churches, if they are going to a pastor and if their abuser is well known in the church as a leader, there is the shame of betraying him and not wanting to reveal the characteristics of abuse. And they are usually very, very afraid that they are not going to be supported. So therefore, if they go and talk to a leader in the church, it’s usually, they give them very, very little information, just enough to, hopefully, have someone ask more questions.

JULIE ROYS:  And I think there’s probably a fear of whether they’ll be believed, especially if the person is a leader in the church that they’re talking about. Because why would you believe the abused party as opposed to this leader who looks exemplary to everybody around them, right?

JUDI NOBLE:  Absolutely. And that is probably the number one reason. Because if the abuser, most of them are very charming and they’re very selective about who they abuse and when they abuse. And so, there’s never any telltale signs of the characteristics of abuse to anyone other than the family members. And that’s the confusing part.

JULIE ROYS:  So, what would be some of the telltale signs that you might see and know to ask some questions or begin to look into things?

JUDI NOBLE:  Well I think, number one, the beginning of it just create a safe place for her to be able to share her story. And as she shares, again, know that you’re just getting a little bit, bits and pieces of the truth. Ask her if she’s afraid. Ask her, what she’s afraid of. But tell her, make sure you tell her this is confidential.  I’m not going to judge you. We’re not here to judge. We’re here to listen. We’re here to take care of you. And just acknowledge her bravery. If she mentions that she feels like she’s abused, if she even mentions the word, acknowledge her bravery and her courage for breaking the silence and seeking help. That’s creating a safe measure for her to share more.

JULIE ROYS:  How do you know, though, to even ask those things? I mean, what does a woman say or what does she indicate that makes you say there might be something going on?

JUDI NOBLE:  You can ask some questions:  All right, do you feel frightened of your mate? Are you afraid to speak right now?  What happens when you do express your feelings to him? Those kind of questions, like, you can ask them that. They probably, and then just fidgeting. She’ll be fidgeting. The one thing that I ask is, when I was on staff of a church I just asked, so who meets your needs? And the silence there is riveting. And the look on her face is like, what do you mean who meets my needs? Because their needs are not met. They’re busy meeting everybody else’s needs. She is an object. And so, then I can go on further to say, does anyone meet your needs? Do you have friends? Who are your friends? Are you in close proximity with your family? If all those questions are, “I don’t have friends,” the answer is, “no, I don’t have much relationship with my family,” one of the characteristics of abuse is isolation.  They’ll isolate them from friends and family. They’re very selective, the abuser’s very selective on who the abused can associate with. That’s a telltale sign.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, again, that’s Judi Noble, founder of Eagle’s Wings and the author of Radical Reconciliation. We need to go to break but when we come back, I want to talk specifically about submission in the church. What does submission look like when you have a spouse that doesn’t love and honor his wife? But yet how is submission maybe used to perpetuate abuse on that wife? When we come back, we’ll talk about that. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We’ll be right back.

Segment 2

JULIE ROYS:  How should the church minister to abused women? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about a serious problem of domestic violence and abuse and how churches can be part of the solution. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. 1 in 7 women have been injured by an intimate partner. 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. So domestic violence and rape is epidemic in our society. And according to my guest today, it’s also epidemic in the church. And sadly, the church doesn’t always do the best job of addressing this issue and helping victims of abuse. Again, joining me today is Judi Nobel, a certified domestic violence advocate and counselor. She’s also the founder and executive director of Eagle’s Wings—an organization that treats both abused and abusers. And she’s the author of Radical Reconciliation, a story of overcoming domestic violence. This is Judi’s own story of how she fled an abusive marriage and overcame a potentially fatal illness. And today, I’m giving away 5 copies of Judi’s book—Radical Reconciliation. If you’d like to enter to win this book, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, today’s show is recorded so I can’t take your calls, but you still can join the live online conversation on Facebook. Just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And to get to us on Twitter, just use my handle, @ReachJulieRoys. 

So, Judi, right before the break, I mentioned this issue of submission, which is something very controversial in the church.  What does that mean? Does a wife have a responsibility to submit to her husband? That would be unique as to a husband submitting to his wife. Some say it’s mutual submission. Others say, “well no, a wife should be submissive to her husband. She has a unique situation to do that.” And then there’s those who say, “listen, whether or not, you know, you go to more the feminist viewpoint of submission or the more the traditional complementarian side of it, it should not be an excuse for abuse, ever. That is not what submission is.” But I think for a lot of women who are caught in this and hearing the church talk about submission, that may not get communicated. So, I want you to talk about this very controversial concept and what it means especially when there’s abuse.

JUDI NOBLE:  Yes, it is an extremely controversial subject. And when you’re talking about women who’ve been abused, you’re talking—Christian women want to be good Christian wives. I don’t know of anyone that we’ve seen that doesn’t want to be a spiritual, loving woman, Christian woman, that honors God. Submission—Jesus would never, ever use abuse to cause anyone to submit. Submission in a normal marital, in a non-conflicting marital relationship, can be mutual. And it can be loving. And it can be respectful and honoring. And even though it might be a struggle at times, it can be resolved. However, when you’re talking about abuse, there’s 4 pillars of domestic violence—now this is the “Judi Noble 4 pillars” that I believe, in my 25 years of doing this. It’s intimidation, manipulation to gain power and control. When a woman who’s being abused, and not just physically abused, but emotionally, and sexually and verbally, they’re just as hard on the heart as a physical punch is to the body. If you’re talking about submission to someone who’s abusing them, the more that they submit, the more powerful the abuser becomes and the worse the abuse gets. It’s the bottom line. So they try. And the trying is usually, very regrettably, 

JULIE ROYS:  Yet there’s so much guilt and shame associated with speaking out, or saying something against your husband because, you know, we’re to honor our spouses. So how do you counsel women to deal with that guilt and shame?

JUDI NOBLE:  Guilt and shame are part of abuse and it’s not their guilt and shame. It’s not. It’s the abuser’s guilt and shame—it’s the manipulation that they’ve received. Because of the isolation, they have very little input from the outside world. So, they believe what they hear every day. And most of them it’s criticism, it’s devaluing. Their esteem is so low. They don’t feel like they’re good Christian wives. So, what we do here, is we try to help them to understand that God loves them. That He would never ask them to submit to abuse. That that’s the enemy. That He is for them. And that He will always stand with them. That there is never an excuse for abuse. That even with submission—submission was never, ever meant to be an abuse tactic.

JULIE ROYS:  I want to ask a question about intimacy within a marriage. I know some of you, if you’re listening right now and you have young children by the radio, you may want to move them somewhere else or listen to this later on the podcast. But I do want to ask about that situation because someone I talked to said, you know, she had received teaching on I Corinthians 7—your body is not your own, it belongs to your husband, therefore fulfill your marital duty to your husband. And she said that her husband forced himself on her and would hurt her. And yet, she had received this teaching from I Corinthians 7. And so, she felt guilty and like she couldn’t say anything. Talk about that in intimacy within a marriage and the Christian teaching on it. And how maybe that gets perverted in our understanding of it sometimes.

JUDI NOBLE:  Well, I just go back to what the Lord said about, what Paul said about husbands, “love your wives like Christ loved the church.” That’s not loving your wife like Christ loved the church. He would never do that. He would never harm to gain His own need to be satisfied.  And therefore, in my estimation, it becomes rape. When someone says, “no,”—and I know that that’s, you know, probably not a very popular idea. But I do believe that we have the opportunity to say no—when we don’t want to, when we feel betrayed, when we feel violated. And if there is a husband that truly loves his wife, like Christ loves the church, he would honor that.

JULIE ROYS:  So, a woman who is in this situation may be asking herself, and especially if a woman has come from an abused background, where abuse seems normal. And maybe her mother had taught her, we don’t talk about these things. And so, she just kind of assumes this happens in a lot of marriages. They just don’t talk about these things. We keep them silent. I know there’s women listening right now who are in that situation. Speak to that woman and help her understand what is the difference between normal marital conflict and abuse.

JUDI NOBLE:  Normal marital conflict is equality. It’s equally honoring, it’s equally respecting, it’s negotiating. Your partner is going to be able to own and take responsibility for his mistakes. He’s going to be able to say he’s sorry and truly repent. And to be able to repair. It’s learning how to repair. I mean we all have to learn how to repair in marriage. But it’s having humility and honor and preferring the other. That does not happen in abusive relationships. 9 times out of 10, I mean, basically if they say, if an abuser says that he or she is sorry, it’s usually not about the person that they’ve abused. It’s about them. They want to have more leeway.  But there is never, ever an excuse for that kind of abuse. Abuse conflict is totally different than true marital conflict, normal marital conflict. As abuse demands its own way, you become an object. You feel like you don’t have a say. You feel like you don’t have a voice. You’ve lost your ability to make a decision. You’ve lost your ability to voice what you need, what is important to you. And that is domestic violence.

JULIE ROYS:  And it seems like probably the most subjective one, I think, we can very clearly say, okay, physical abuse, we know that line. You should never hit your spouse period. I mean, that just no, no excuse for that ever. Should never happen. But emotional, spiritual abuse, that’s where it gets a little bit muddied, I find. And people don’t know, “now is this abuse?” Is this what this looks like? We need to go to break. But when we come back, Judi, I want you to address that. What does emotional abuse look like? What does spiritual abuse look like?

Again, I’m speaking with Judi Noble, founder of Eagle’s Wings and the author of Radical Reconciliation. Also, if you’d like to connect with us on Facebook, just go to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And you can comment there. Again, I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. And we will be right back after a short break.

Segment 3

JULIE ROYS: Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University.  I’m Julie Roys.  And today, we’re discussing an issue that for far too long was tolerated by society. But thanks to the #MeToo movement, the sexual abuse of women and domestic violence is finally getting the attention it deserves. There’s also a corresponding movement in the church called the #ChurchToo movement. And now, we’re becoming aware of how widespread abuse is—not just in society, but also in the church. And we’re beginning to recognize that the woman sitting next to us in the pew may be battered and abused at home. But often, she doesn’t come out and say she’s abused. Instead, she tests the waters. She may say she and her husband fight a lot. Or, she’ll say that her husband is controlling. But rarely does she actually admit that her husband hits her, or forces himself on her, or berates her incessantly. So how do we spot abuse? And especially in our faith communities, how do we help these abused women, and their children, find safety? Well joining me today to help us learn how to do just that is Judi Noble, a certified abuse counselor and founder of Eagles’ Wings—an organization that helps equip pastors and leaders to recognize abuse and help abuse victims. Also, I’m giving away copies of Judi’s book called, Radical Reconciliation. If you’d like to enter to win that book, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. Also, if you want to read some of the articles I’ve published on this topic, they’re available at my website. As I mentioned earlier, I’m publishing a two-part series about abused women at churches that at one point, were associated with Harvest Bible Chapel. The women say the church failed to protect them, and instead, protected their abusers. I believe these pieces are just extremely important for understanding how this dynamic plays out in the church. So again, to either enter the giveaway—go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway for that—or to read the articles, simply go to JulieRoys.com. So Judi, before the break I just brought up the issue of emotional and spiritual abuse—something that is much harder, I think, to identify, because it’s subjective, than physical abuse, where there’s hitting, or sexual abuse, where there might be forcing yourself on another person. So talk to me a little bit about how emotional abuse is, what spiritual abuse is, and maybe within the context of a story of somebody who’s gone through this so we can see an example of what it looks like.

JUDI NOBLE: I coached and counselled a woman back for a couple of years. And she was in a domestic abuse relationship—mainly emotional and mainly spiritual—it had gotten somewhat physical. However, her husband had wanted to counsel. And because he told the pastor that she was not being a submitted wife and she was being rebellious, so I suggested strongly that they not meet together because I thought that was too dangerous for her. The reason being that she wouldn’t be able to share her heart with the pastor. And I didn’t know if the husband had already begun to accomplice the pastor, which happens, because they’re charming. So she went ahead and counselled anyway with the pastor and her husband. And she very bravely and courageously shared her heart on how she felt. And what she thought was going on—that she was trying to be a spiritual wife and a submitted wife. The whole time her husband was just glaring at her, unbeknownst to the pastor that was coaching them and counselling them. And she shared so much that it was pulling the covers away from the abuser. So the pastor told her to go home and pray more and to be as submitted as she could be—to do the normal things that most pastors would say to a wife that didn’t really understand abuse, really didn’t understand the consequences of what he was saying. And so, they got in the car together. And on the way home he berated her. He mocked her. He stripped her of every bit of identity that she had, verbally. And by the time they got home he had begun to physically abuse her pretty horrifically. So, it was all of the above: spiritually, emotionally and physically—he really hadn’t gotten physically until he realized that he had lost control. And it was devastating for her. It was devastating.

JULIE ROYS: What you just described, I mean, being in counselling with your husband, and in one of the stories that I wrote, that was the standard course of action—you would go to intensive counselling and it would be, you’re there with your husband. And you also have a set of advocates. But to the women, saying this in front of their husband was terrifying. Right? I mean, because this is just going to bring more abuse. And you’re going to pay for it when you get home, right? Because you were not supposed to say that.

JUDI NOBLE: Absolutely. Never, I don’t believe you should ever counsel the two together.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, standard marriage counseling you do counsel together. Because that’s the whole point is to work things out. But when there’s abuse, no. That’s a really bad idea.

JUDI NOBLE: A very bad idea.

JULIE ROYS: How, and I’m guessing the spiritual part of it is he was using scripture to try and gain control?

JUDI NOBLE: Yes, he was. And he had told her for many, many months that she was a terrible Christian and used scripture against her. And she would bring these scriptures to me. We would try to decipher them as far as what God meant, not what he meant. But it was terribly confusing. Again, she didn’t have a lot of outside input except for us. But eventually she did get free.

JULIE ROYS: But it’s so, so, so, so hard to combat those messages, isn’t it?

JUDI NOBLE: It is.

JULIE ROYS: I know I talked to one woman who said that I thought that I was crazy because my husband kept telling me that I was crazy. So, I started believing him. But the only reason I had a problem with this is because I was crazy. The problem was me. Right? And that’s what the husband, in these situations, is trying to get the wife to believe, because he will not look at his own problem. So she . . .

JUDI NOBLE: It’s called gaslighting. And the first thing, really, most of the women say when they walk through our doors the first time, they just say, “I think I’m crazy.” The gaslighting is very manipulative.

JULIE ROYS: It’s awful. Well again, you’re listening to The Roys Report.  I’m Julie Roys.  And joining me today is Judi Noble, a certified abuse counselor and the founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings—an organization that equips the church to help abuse victims. And when we come back, I want to hear the rest of this story. How did this woman find help? We’ll be right back after a short break.

Segment 4

JULIE ROYS: Well how can churches spot abuse and help abuse victims? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re exploring this important topic with Judi Noble, a certified abuse counselor and author of Radical Reconciliation. We’ll be jumping back into that discussion in a just a minute. But first, I want to let you know that next week we’re going to be talking about the tragic shooting last year at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead. There have been a lot of theories and speculation about what caused that shooting. But my guest next week says it’s clear as day what caused the shooting. He says the shooter was extremely violent. And for years had communicated his intention to murder people. Yet school administrators refused to believe in the depravity of mankind and sin. And as a result, they refused to expel the student, and instead, they sought to reform him and correct the injustices that must have made him violent. And they kept him in that school sitting right next to the people that he wanted to murder. Well, my guest will be Max Eden, author of Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students. This is going to be, I think a really eye-opening program. So, I hope you’ll make a point to join me next week on The Roys Report! But returning to our topic today on abused wives, again joining me is Judi Noble. And just a reminder, if you missed any part of today’s show—or want to listen to it again or share it with friends, it will be available about an hour from now at my website JulieRoys.com. So Judi you were telling us a story in the last segment about a woman who was a victim of spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, and then it became physical abuse as well but I’d like to hear the rest of that story. I’m hoping it has a redemptive ending. What happened with this woman?     

JUDI NOBLE:  Because of the physical violence, we had told her that it was going to escalate into physical violence eventually, if she didn’t start making proactive movements to leave or to get some other kind of counseling.

JULIE ROYS: Was she coming to you as part of Eagle’s Wings, coming to you to get help but getting counseling, it sounds like, from her pastor at the same time?                                                                                 

JUDI NOBLE: Well, the counseling from the pastor was at the admonition of her husband. She was given our information by a friend. And so we started talking with her and sharing with her. You know, sometimes it’s the denial is so thick, she didn’t even want to admit that she was really an abused wife. And so, the physical violence clarified that she was. For some reason that really, well, for the most, sometimes if you are in denial that will actually clarify that you are being abused. She had children. And so that terrified her. So, we began the journey of just investigating what she wanted to do. What was her dream? What dreams hadn’t she fulfilled? When they get ready to leave, any of them that try to get ready to leave, it is the most dangerous time for them. As the power and control will be totally lost. So we baby stepped it pretty much through her journey. I have an amazing board of directors. I have a pastor on my board, a police officer on my resource board. And so I talked her into talking to one of them. The police officer is also a pastor. And she talks to him. And it was a divine moment, because his kindness overwhelmed her—the pastoral kindness that he shared with her, and the truth that he shared with her, and talked about Moses and the Israelites and crossing the Red Sea, and how God is going to do this for her. It was a miracle moment. It was very divine. Because of his knowledge on how we could keep her safe and what we needed to do because she was all the way across the country. We just got connected with another shelter and with his help, and their help, and our help and with the police officer’s help we got her out and we got her safe. Her story is very incredibly redemptive. She always wanted to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree. She’s now in her master’s program getting her MFT.

JULIE ROYS: That’s wonderful. I know that you counsel not just abuse victims but it says abusers as well. That’s a harder group to work with I am guessing, but not beyond the scope of God’s redemption, right?

JUDI NOBLE: Absolutely, if you read my book, my ex-husband who was my abuser, absolutely came full circle. We can’t lose hope for anybody, because they’re are all God’s children. But, and you know, when you have someone that is broken and someone who will break and hurt wives and children, then you know God wants their heart. He’s an Isaiah 61 God. He can heal the broken hearted. The wounded people wound. Broken people, break. If we can stop domestic violence we have to get at the source, which is the person who is being violent. And I think that is the hands and feet of Jesus, is to try, if they are willing, to listen and to talk. And to share and get healing. And I do believe that’s where the answer lies. 

JULIE ROYS: So, we talked a lot to victims today. But to abusers, you would say go get help, you’re not beyond, they must feel horrible, they must know what they are doing, right?

JUDI NOBLE:  Yeah, they do but if we’re at all critical then we just confirm what they already feel about themselves. So, it’s a loving, but firm and gentle, and strong, and I had a lot of good men around me that can help with that. Because men call out men, I believe. But there have been many guys that have walked through this door that have said and listened to me and gone and have a couple counselors on board that will really help, if they want, they’ll really help these guys get better. And we don’t ever, ever, ever ask them to go back with their wives or ask their wives to reconcile at least for a year or two. Until they’ve had really good healing.

JULIE ROYS: Yeah, trust needs to be earned, especially after it’s been broken that poorly. And where, for people listening right now, hopefully your church is a good place to go and to get help, but not always. What would you say to people both those are listening who are abused and those who are abusers, where should they look to get help? 

JUDI NOBLE: That’s a great question. I think the community does a little bit better job to help the men, the men who are abusing. But there are places like Eagle’s Wings. I think that there is another ministry called Focus that they can contact. You just have to be very careful. There are counselors that will definitely help the men. Women can go to the pastors themselves or go to the woman’s ministry and ask, “Do you have a program here?” We have a program called Love Does No Harm. It’s our group. “Do you have programs here? Do you have groups here that help abused women?” 

JULIE ROYS: So that takes us to the question of training and a church better equipping. My guess is that most churches don’t have anything like that for abused women. 

JUDI NOBLE: Exactly, they don’t.

JULIE ROYS: Okay, so, for the church leader who is listening and says this is definitely an issue we want to be equipped for, how do they equip themselves?

JUDI NOBLE: I believe that every domestic violence organization in this nation has training material. We do. And is very, very willing to go out and train your staff. We are one of the few Christian organizations. We will train your staff. I know Focus is a Christian organization. We will definitely make sure that you get trained. This is our passion. Because once you know what you are dealing with, then you can deal with it effectively and godly. And there will be no more re-abusing of the victim. 

JULIE ROYS: And that’s what’s so often happens, isn’t it? They go to get help, unfortunately in a church, and there’ a lot of churches that do this well. We’re talking about the ones that don’t do it well. But they do get as you call it, re-abused. Explain what you mean by all that. 

JUDI NOBLE: They very candidly go to their leadership whoever that might be. And if it’s a man then they’re very scared. Men are scary to them. And they attempt to try to share their story. And whoever is listening is not listening. They pull the submission card. Or they don’t hear their hearts. They don’t validate them. They tell them to go home and work harder. And so, it’s really re-abusing them. And many times, if we do that too many times, we lose them. There’s a great scripture, Isaiah 42:22 “These are like people hidden in caves, imprisoned. And who will say to them, restore, restore.” We need to be restorers, otherwise they will go deeper in and won’t come out again. Or they’ll leave and they don’t come back to our churches. And we don’t want to lose them. 

JULIE ROYS: And that is the tragedy, a lot of women. When they are in the church and have experienced abuse, when they leave their spouse they often leave Christianity. I know a woman I was talking with and she said that when she left her husband, I would be leaving Christianity because I had been told for so long that to speak out or go against him was so wrong, that I would be leaving my faith. And she said I am still disentangling the truth from the lies about what God really feels and what God says. 

JUDI NOBLE: Yep, absolutely. Well said.

JULIE ROYS: Tough to do. Really quickly, because we don’t have a lot of time, one group that we haven’t spoken about, is the children. And they are sort of the collateral damage in these abusive homes. What about the children? How can we help the children? 

JUDI NOBLE: There are more and more counselors I know in my church particularly we have a counseling center. And we have a counselor just for children. In one church that we do our Love Does No Harm group, they have a real effective program to help children heal, get them into counseling. There is low cost counseling and if you are out and away and you can get these kids into counseling for women that are abused. Sometimes in court cases the abuser will not allow them to have counseling. But if you can, get them into counseling quickly, quickly. And let them know that it’s not their fault, anymore than it was the woman’s fault for being abused. The children tend to take it on themselves, if I had just not spoken out – they feel the guilt, condemnation, and shame just as their mom does. It’s not the abused’s fault any more than it’s especially those little baby’s fault.  

JULIE ROYS: Well, Proverbs 31:8 and 9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly.” And friends we want our churches to be places where the vulnerable are defended. Where the vulnerable are protected, where abusers are called to account, and confronted. Sadly, we haven’t always done this in the church. Whether out of ignorance, cowardice, or just indifference, we have failed to help women in abusive relationships. And this has to change. Churches must do a better job of protecting the vulnerable. So, I encourage you, if you’re a leader in your church, urge your church to get training on this issue. Just like Judi was talking about. And if you suspect that someone may be abused, reach out to that person. Let that person know it’s safe to talk—and that you’ll do everything within your power to protect her. Again, my thanks to Judi Noble for coming on today’s program. I so appreciate all the valuable information that you gave us today, and your heart for the vulnerable. So thank you, Judi, thank you so much. And just a reminder. If you missed any part of this show, or just want to listen again, just go to JulieRoys.com. We’ll have the podcast posted within the next hour. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless!  

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3 thoughts on “How Should Churches Minister To Abused Women?”

  1. Thank you Julie and Judy
    for addressing the seriousness of abuse in Christian marriages and the fear of women to speak up. It is true for so many of us that when we did speak up in the church we were re-abused by the very people we trusted and depended on for truth to be acknowledged and dealt with.
    “Wait and pray”, “work harder”, “focus on repentance of your sinful response of fear and anger” are not the heart of God in confronting abuse. Abuse of anyone is a serious matter and affects everyone in both the abused and abusers life. I continue to pray for healing and restoration to a healthy church for those who have had this experience; Isaiah 42:22, Proverbs 31:8-9. We know this is God’s heart. He is the great Healer and comforter of our souls! It’s a road less traveled but surely we are not alone :)

  2. Hello Julie: I went from a 32 year marriage to a fine man and pastor who I served with, including counseling women who were abused, to widowhood, to remarriage to a classic narcissist/emotional-verbal abuser. May I share some thoughts and questions on the problem of abuse with you in an email?

  3. Listened to this podcast twice.
    I’m still here (40 plus yrs) … it’s a long story – safer to stay than leave. My adult children and siblings are a huge part of the ‘abuse’.
    Thankfully, the Lord has faithfully led me to others to confirm that I’m not crazy; that I have and continue to be emotionally and spiritually abused.
    Thank you for addressing this issue. I am without a church fellowship in this small semi-remote community because all of them are the same … I am to lovingly pray and submit. :(

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