My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You find out that your loved one is being berated by their spouse, verbally and emotionally beat into submission. Your Christian neighbor comes over to talk, and begins to pour out their heart describing how their spouse demands their submission, even quoting the Scriptures that talk about male headship, spiritually pounding them into shame. What help can you give, if any? Maybe you find yourself in a cycle of physical, verbal, or emotional violence that comes around after a season of apologies, flowers and sweets. You start noticing that the next stage is the increase of blame from your significant other - "If you hadn't have burned the toast, I wouldn't have exploded like that," or some-such. All of these situations and more are covered in Darby Strickland's "Domestic Abuse: Help for the Sufferer." This small booklet is crammed full of helpful information, heartfelt biblical advice, and wholesome encouragement.
From the first page through the endnotes, I loved how Strickland easily maps out what oppression looks like (not just physical violence, but emotional, spiritual, financial and sexual). As she points out: "If your spouse is seeking to gain or maintain power and control over you, they are violating God's design for the sake of their own dominion. God has a word for this: oppression" (1). Her defining the oppressor's motive of confusion-making is very perceptive: "Oppressors want to obscure what they are doing, so they work to create confusion in the minds of their victims" (9). And even when the oppressive person comes with hat-in-hand, remorseful and apologetic, they are usually in a part of the abuse-cycle where they are resetting "the power and control dynamic," but there will soon come about excuse making and blame-shifting which "are signals that they are still justifying their behavior" (12-3).
Strickland also notes three aspects of an oppressor's heart. Oppressors believe that they are entitled to getting their desires and demands. Oppressors are also effective manipulators, especially as they portray themselves as sufferers. And finally, oppressors have very little self-awareness and are profoundly self-deceived about their behavior and intentions - that their behavior is right and their actions are therefore justified. There is no self-reflecting doubt in their mental make-up (22-5).
Lastly, the author lays out the importance of coming to see that the abuse is not your fault; you didn't do anything to deserve this treatment. God himself hates this violence and oppression, sees your suffering and desires to rescue you. With these thoughts in mind, Strickland then explains the importance of you monitoring your safety, speaking to others (silence and isolation are part of the oppressors arsenal of manipulative tools), speaking to God, and considering if you should flee or not.
"Domestic Abuse: Help for the Sufferer" is an important pamphlet of only 51 pages. This needs to be on your church's book table. Also your congregation's leadership should take it up, read it, and discuss it. In the next few days I will be leading my church's elders through this manual so that we're better prepared to help any who are being crushed under the jackbooted heal of oppression. I highly recommend the booklet.
The booklet can be purchased here: Domestic Abuse
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