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Friends Helping Friends: Identifying Abuse in Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
October 20, 2021 6:00 am

Friends Helping Friends: Identifying Abuse in Marriage

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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October 20, 2021 6:00 am

Darby Strickland offers listeners guidance from her book "Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims."

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Going on with Christian friends that's been no concern about her sinking there all the time.

Yeah when I asked her when she said she couldn't make it seems like she barely leaves the house will wonder if you had a similar experience tell something is off with a friend feel really out of reach today on Focus on the Family will have some advice on an important topic how to walk alongside a friend who's in abusive or hostess focus president Dr. Jim Daly and Anjan felt John many people are unaware of the hidden reality of news about 75% of Americans will know someone who is a victim of domestic violence. Over the course of their lifetime and there's a good chance you know someone at church or at work dealing with this and as a friend. You're in a natural position to help most people trapped in abusive marriages won't seek out counselors, but they're much more likely to talk with a trusted friend. That's the basis that relationship is the basis for feeling safe in ensuring that and we should acknowledge that abuse does go both ways.

There are men listening who are suffering in an abusive relationship and we do care about your situation. Of course that's right, John, and we want men to know we here you will hear from some feel we didn't cover that today that today's program will apply to everybody situation in many ways, but the focus of our conversation will be women who make up 85% of domestic abuse victims and our guest today specializes in counseling those women specifically that's right Darby Strickland is in a great position to offer help on the topic. She's a counselor and author and her book is a great resource for every Christian is called is it abuse a biblical guide to identifying domestic abuse and helping victims of course we have that here the ministry all the details are in the show notes Darby welcomed the Focus on the Family for the first time. It's great to have you think it's an honor. This is really you know a difficult topic when we talk about abuse, and abuse as defined in some way different ways. Your counselor and you work regularly with victims of abuse. What would they want people outside of their situation to know it's a good opening question, what does that abuse person feel in their heart great questions.

I think the experience of the victim is often confused.

Oftentimes not even recognize that they're being abused and they probably have encountered them, they probably read every marriage book prayed every pair gone to friends and asked for help with specific things in their marriage but they know something's not right. They can put their finger on what it is they often think things are their fault their husbands or he's angry and they just can't make sense of their world. So I think that abuse victims I work with really just benefit we slow down or asking them careful questions trying out individual stories about what's happening in their home, helping them try to make sense of what's occurring in Darby. In that regard, you do encourage Christians broadly to be better equipped to hear the signs if I could say that way of abuse and to understand them. That's a bit of big requests because you know if you're living in a comfortable environment and your family doing well and you're going to work in life is pretty good.

This is a challenge to be tuned in to those around you. Your friends and neighbors who might be in an abusive situation described that desire had I think and three France really one is we don't see if these happen right happens behind closed doors. So were not cute and secondly I think we don't see it because it's a problem of imagination. I can't imagine that the woman sitting next to me in the pew I know her husband.

I can't imagine the brutal cruelty that she's facing at home or the coercion or things being thrown at her look and perceive her husband. That way, I think it's important because I think it's what God asks of his people to care for the oppressed and the vulnerable. Those people are on his heart in Scripture. And it's what Christ did when he came he tended to the needy, the broken glass and wrangling that so good in that regard, we mentioned this and it generally is true that that women bear the brunt of abuse give us some statistics there are going to be some men listening going hey I am the one that's in that situation ride that dynamic certainly counseled male victims of abuse and they are rarer because to be the oppressor. You have to have power and control on your side and just naturally men tend to have more power. So if you're a disabled man or your wife is the primary breadwinner. Those are the cases where the power dynamic conflict women particularly are vulnerable and makeup. I would say over 95% of the victims and churches specifically and what that looks like. I think this is even all of these work that I have done and all the counseling I have done when I came across a statistics that said 25% of marriages are abusive. No way that can't be, and then just learning is the same church within the walls of the church statistic remains the same and I sat back I looked at my own church of 400 within five minutes I could rattle off the names to fill that list and just experience has taught me it's in more places, and we would expect the broader question then then I'll get more specific and I know you have many examples in your book and were to pull in some of those that brought her context, it would seem there's a failure to integrate one's faith. If this is accurate. If 1/4 the church in a court of the culture live in an abusive situation. Something is not working well it as a counselor, where would you put that I know were imperfect people. I know that we struggle with sin nature and all those excuses but this to me seems like an unchanged heart if you're abuse of the new year claiming to know Christ.

Yeah so that your thoughts and your values that fuel in abuse and it's this pernicious sense of entitlement that I want my world the way that I want it. I'm willing to wound and punish another to get it. I would liken it to the evil kings in Scripture right.

They wanted their world the way they wanted it, and they harmed all his people under their care. They wanted to be worshiped versus the good kings they wanted to point the worship towards other people and they serve the people got entrusted into their care and we all do it.

I think this is so confusing about abuse. I can be entitled. I can say I've had a long day homeschooling I'd get serve my children anymore. The difference of abuses might find become an abuser. My entitlement is so great that I'm willing to put fear coworkers and and punish those to get my comfort and it's good to get the definition I think that micro perspective moving from that bigger definition than the percentages that were talking about and that lack of faith integration in that group of people comes down to kind of the fog of being in that abusive situation. That's how I would describe it, you're not really sure if this is normal and you start questioning yourself and the environment you're in. Maybe this is the way it is, speak to that issue of fog and you actually have Addison as an example in your book, who describes this. What was that initial encounter with Addison that got you thinking that there's more to this than what's on the surface, would she say to you, she disposed a simple question she asked me did your husband ever get jealous of your parenting your children. I thought that was a really curious question. So anytime I hear something as well.

Learn more. Her emotion in her eyes kinda betrayed her. There is little bit more intensity behind what she was saying she was so apologetic for asking such a question or questioning her spouse all this thing said to me, there's more there. I really need to draw out of her yeah and I think the definitions are so critical here for people to understand how do you determine the difference between the spouse who is technically abusive and that person who is negligent or sinful, but it's not an abusive category.

Is there a distinction is a huge distinction. That's one of the reasons why the book I spent so much time asking careful and detailed questions. Sometimes we can label abusive behavior, and it's easy.

Other times, and this is much more common you are living under a climate of coercive control and anyone behavior. Just think of that husband is ignoring his wife is it abuse. We don't know these have a hard day at work right so we have to look at how that behavior's functioning. The relationship does he do it often.

For how long was a retaliation for something. Can she say this is painful to me and him respond to that without further punishment does it accomplish something for him. Does he not have to go to the in-laws next week does it change her future behavior. So you really want to step back and say how does like anyone behavior expressing about the oppressor's heart is he trying to seek domination and subjugation of this person or is he is having a bad day like we all have and these are important distinctions that you counsel a couple named Matt and Sarah and their great example of how conflict is resolved when abuse is not in the picture.

What was their story.

They sent difference is about how they want to spend their time on the weekends and is kept getting caught with how to spend family time is really clear when you step back and they clearly had different set of values different set of desires for how they want to spend their time with family and outside the home. But when you talk to them, particularly Matt. He was broken.

You say I don't want to be selfish and how I spend my time.

I didn't recognize the impact this is having on my wife and how she's relating to her siblings so he could hear the impact of his choices on his wife. She learned things about his heart and what felt comfortable important to him and they just worked together initially in a caring way to negotiate conflicting desires. When abuse is on the scene.

The oppressor is. This is the way I don't get my way. It turns idly click.

Sometimes it feels that that definition could scoop up a broad list of behaviors right. I think human beings.

At times we can be very manipulative Scriptures for the Old Testament definitely is full of manipulative people who are trying to get their way again. I want to come back. Maybe it's listing abuse from as a counselor, your perspective, what does abuse look like. Obviously we have physical abuse.

We have emotional abuse.

Can you get a little more granular on what, technically, that means those are just the fruit of our hearts right there specific behavior, whether they're sexual or financial or withholding affection, emotional, spiritual, using Bible verses to shame. They are fruits of the heart letter demonstrating. I want control.

I am trying to coerce out of you what I want you know we want respect, but some people settle for fear and sale or I want order in my life in Scripture just really clear our fruit showcases its were just looking at specific behaviors that we all have and I just try to see what is feeling in my heart.

What is idolatry is going on me within me and another woman you mentioned. The book is a great example about this is Jenny who came to you for advice because her husband wasn't showing interest in her and what was your initial advice and what happened when you learn more about that marriage. Yeah, I think my initial advice having done abuse work long enough, is I am very slow to give advice when someone comes up to me and says this is what's going on. Abuse women often send up a little trial balloon.

They'll say something like, you know, does your husband ever do ask and instead of saying no. That would never happen in my home I'll say something like, why did you ask or has it ever happened before, or tell me about a time that that was particularly difficult for you. So one thing I did with Jenny.

As I just got a lot collected a lot more stories drew out more about what was going on before I spoken to the situation. Yeah. And in terms of encouraging us to be mindful of those 25% that may be going through that. What are some of those tipoffs that you would run into now your turn counselor nighttime so you deftly have an advantage there.

But how would you educate us to be more in tune with the comment that should catch our attention that might not yeah so if I'm I think about stepping back and looking at a person globally as well.

So I'm looking at a woman who was once active in church and now that she's married and having children. She's more withdrawn or she's becoming unsure of herself and abuse often takes like anxiety or fear to she's talking and you're hearing anxiety and her questions or she's afraid or husband comes behind her posture suddenly changes.

We observe those things in our small group but how couples relate to.

I think were just looking to they have the freedom and comfortably to be themselves and again I wanted to say. We just don't know.

And so I take every question not with suspicion but I want to know more about your heart so someone says this is going on in my marriage. Oftentimes a great question say what have you tried you. How have you prayed about it is these women have often done everything instead of just giving them the next step and then used again.

You just collect more stories about what's going on you counsel a woman named Katie who was struggling to respect her husband. That's a pretty common issue in marriage and she asked her friends for marriage advice.

What guidance did her friends offer and how did it backfire. Yeah, I they offered her great books to read that just were not applicable.

And there's abuse. Many of Katie's friends just pointed out her feelings and I told her to be more organized at home and told her to work on the budget better keep to really enhancing those fears and feeding his entitlements. They took her husband's list of complaints and they validated them because I didn't understand the punishments that were happening when she wasn't meeting them well and you said this and I think it's so critical that we do repeated and probably more than twice this idea of being a good listener and really hearing from that abuse person before speaking too much and I like that. What are some other basic guidelines that you would encourage people to zero in on regarding victims of abuse.

One is just understand that there confuse people. So one week. There can be coming to you. Sam really struggling with this issue in my marriage and the next week they're going to come back to and saying I think I was overstating it.

I think I made my husband look bad. So there can be going to that pendulum within themselves oftentimes because of the trauma going on the home they don't speak literally.

Their stories aren't clear.

So it's very difficult for us to follow with her actually trying to communicate what's the source of that.

I think it's just a question of being an environment where you live in fear and you're so uncertain of yourself and what's happening that you lose your ability to communicate your story.

Clearly, such a difficult place to be. I mean just always doubting and not knowing what solid ground you mentioned the book that it's critical that we don't use the abuse word too often because it does wield a lot of concern and you know it makes people around you. Kind of cautious right so what how do you manage that one is we just want to be really precise and what's happening. So if I'm sitting with a woman. The word abuse is it's a big word but I need to find out what's actually happening that marriage in abuse is not really helpful word for that, so I'm in a drill down and try to find out is there cruelty is there manipulation are there harsh words, is there physical intimidation so I want to describe what's happening in the home and when I think about it. I want to walk away from the situation.

Not understanding the content of the argument, but I want to know is a screenplay, was it like to be in that room were his fists clenched. Did he undermine you in your parenting. What exact words were said so were actually collecting a lot of data on a lot of additives and a lot of verbs to fill out what's happening. I think these are great insights on how to be well self-aware obviously in your marriage for all of us but again, particularly for men to understand where they're coming from in the relationship and how they're behaving in the relationship when it comes to friends, which the book is really geared to assuming you're in a healthy place and how do you observe abuse around you.

How should you respond if a friend comes to you and begins to describe an abusive environment. It would be completely natural to feel unequipped and overwhelmed overwhelmed right because I'm not very lightly. I'm afraid to use the word abuse ran as if someone comes to me as a friend. I don't put that huge label on it. So again I think I'm just thinking of experiences were you have to know the go button. This is the go button right when you hear certain things and you need to help that person get to a safe place correct what of those go signals for you right so one is when you're first in a relationship with someone in your exploring the abuse you're just going really slow and it's okay that it's taking me some time to figure out if it's abuse right. It's okay if it takes months ran off until people helpers we can't solve oppression. Women are even slow in the steps that they want to take. So it's okay to go slow and be patient and work at a victims pace. There is another's other reality that abuse can escalate and become really dangerous and it can be lethal. So if you're hearing things that your summons being strangled or pinned down or certain acts of violation and we start to think this person is in danger and I might need to be advocating for them more quickly.

But again, we can't tell a woman to leave until she's ready except puts her in more danger as well. So when were signed to worry about her physical danger, then we want to be consulting like domestic violence hotline are experts and people in the area to help you walk through that when you sent it again I will make sure people clearly hear that your focus can do some things to help you in that situation, but you gotta contact us and we can provide caring Christian counseling to give you some direction certainly provide you some biblically-based approaches to finding help, let's say an abusive spouse repents in front of the church. It sounds like your church has done this in your pastor's certainly in tune with these things.

These are such basic behavioral issues. How do you verify that a person that a spouse, a friend of yours spouse is actually in a better place them in that it sounds a little almost invasive. You know yet to do that, but you're doing it as a friend so Heck yeah and I appreciate using the word verifying because it's easy to display worldly sorrow. I've seen many oppressors cry tears because they're ashamed or humiliated, or they want their world to go back the way they wanted and but they really haven't been transformed by Christ to live as he would as a servant and so we have to is verifiable, repentant look like.

It looks like sustained behavioral change over a long period of time where they've repented of specific moments specific patterns of control not just global statements I haven't been loving right was scary.

We want them to say last August when I did this in the kitchen and that makes me think of this time so they should be specific understanding, then each also need to understand the impact that that behavior had a person who is truly repentant and sadly it is rare, but then they stop pressuring their wife, they stop pressuring to forgive, they stop pressuring further unification because they recognize that's coercion and so I we save someone's repented of oppression. It's a whole different fruit. We often settle for lesser repentance because we want to see marriages flourish but we don't want to see women and children put back in harm's way. Of course, that's exactly what were doing the program.

I'm glad you wrote the book Darby. Let's speak to that woman who's listening right now who has realized through our conversation that she may be in an abusive marriage. Now part of that is to your point. Go slow because we don't want to create something that isn't there. But if the warning signs and the things that were describing our present. How would you encourage her to take the next step and maybe seek out a friend she can float those trial balloons with that you described earlier.

Yeah, I think it's really helpful to identify friends to understand abuse who are willing to learn about abuse so you might as a friend approached friend say would you be willing to read this book with me can you sit with me and help me understand this and I think just finding a friend that's willing to learn and be encourage or their partner in this lurking.

Would you be willing to pray with me that the Lord reveals these things. I think that's one really important stop.

The other things you want to find a friend who doesn't tell you what to do right as is a controlled person.

The last thing is you want is to have a friend come in and now take over another set of choices from you and I think you want to just hold out until you really find someone who is willing to do that in that regard. I could hear conversation that with that friend that would go something like this. You know like I don't need a prescriptive input here. I need is some balancing ability.

Can I ask you some questions and I just want to hear your perspective as a good way to set yet.

Look at any choice in abuse woman makes makes her life worse. If she confronts that her life can become more difficult. If she goes to the church and they get involved back and make her life more difficult. If she doesn't deal with the abuse, the abuses can escalate increase her time so she is a really hard decision how she wants to walk this out Darby. The other thing and you never get from your own pastor's experiences. These are difficult things to go head-to-head on and I could imagine a lot of churches love pastors that you know this is something can be done in counseling but you know they wouldn't encourage the flock to the on the lookout for these things, but it seems healthy for people to be observant to help those that are in the downtrodden position right and I think I want to end kinda were restarted, which is the character of Christ and his attitude toward those people that are hurting tie that in the Bofors the Jesus himself seemed to be looking for that person who has been abused yeah described that in first century terms. Yeah, I think if we think of Jesus regulate all his power aside.

He came down he made himself little he made himself approachable. He put himself in human form said he understood what our world is like. He was oppressed.

His friends failed him out of love for people right as he cared for people he acted. I often think of him when in this work of him healing the leper, but he also touched the leopard slips and ashes assignment that I am willing to contaminate myself out of love for somebody else and I want to lift their shame and their acceptance and their knowledge of me them to feel noon and I'm willing to get intimate and personal way and abuse. Work is hard and it's costly to us, but I just think that's how the Lord moves his care for people moves him to act well, you've done a great job putting this in your book and I want to say thank you, thank you for being with us today covering this really difficult topic.

Thanks for having me this is been so insightful Darby and you really have given us some really wise insights today. I really appreciate the encouragement to step in and protect the vulnerable and blood, Darby said that you don't have to have a counseling degree to do that I'd encourage you to lean on God big and learn how to come alongside friends in these complex situations. A good place to start is getting Darby's book. It has a screening question self assessments and great information to help you minister to hurting friends. You can order a copy of the book is it abuse directly here from Focus on the Family and join us in ministry. Whether it's a spouse in an abusive relationship. A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy or a couple on the brink of divorce Focus on the Family is stepping into these very dark situations every day to provide real help if you can commit to a monthly pledge or even a one-time gift to support the ministry will say thank you by sending you a copy of Darby's book and if you can afford it, just get in touch with us that we are a Christian ministry. We want you to have this resource and get equipped to help others in this area and you can donate to get your copy of Darby's book when you call 800 K in the word family or will have all the details in the episode notes and let me speak specifically to the woman listening who is in that abusive relationship. Focus on the Family is here for you, please reach out our counseling team will listen to your story. Pray with you and point you to support in your area and again the number to connect with one of our counselors is in the show coming up next time on Focus on the Family facing an unplanned pregnancy after you thought your family was complete except for it is not what am I going to do about this baby step forward is okay, help me, help me through this on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back. As we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ, man I knew, my marriage is falling apart. I just did not affix. I felt like I would always be alone even if I stayed married at Focus on the Family's hope restored marriage intensively offer hope to couples in crisis so they can have the marriage they always dreamed that for the first time I felt like my husband truly heard me.

I received some great tools from the counselors that have changed my life and my marriage to begin the journey of finding health go to hope today

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