In many Christian homes during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it is a time of thankfulness to God, a celebration of the birth of Christ and the anticipation of God’s plan and direction for another year. In the shadows of these wonderful moments and behind closed doors are other Christian marriages and families who are living with an abusive spouse and parent. These wounded families are often hard to detect within our churches. As one woman shares, “we are the perfect family of four sitting on the front row looking like we have it all together.” She and her husband are involved in ministries within their church. But the rest of the sad but true story is that her husband has been abusive behind their closed door for over twenty years. The silence about abuse within our churches is deafening as most women are afraid to reveal this dark and destructive secret.
I was surprised to see that the available information online addressing the question, “Does abuse increase over the holidays?” is inconclusive and even contradictory. It revealed that there are less calls into crisis lines during the holiday season, but advocates, shelters and police departments around our country respond to a higher rate of domestic abuse during this time. There are many examples online, including this informational video from a police department in Texas from December of 2012: http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Police-Domestic-Violence-Calls-Increase-During-Holidays-182266201.html .
What is behind this increase in abuse? The women I come along side of share a number of possible reasons including: their husbands are around the house more, financial issues are be heightened, drinking is more prevalent, and/or family and other holiday events lessen the control a husband has over his wife. For an abused wife, the holidays represent a time of high anxiety and fear as they just try to survive, stay safe and do whatever they can to divert or minimize the potential of abuse. They are walking on eggshells, having a hard time sleeping at night and struggling with other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress.
To these wounded sisters I would like to say, please know that you are loved and our hearts break for you as does God’s. He has never intended harm to come to you in a marital relationship where He calls a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). As the holidays approach, please consider having a safety plan in place for you and your children like this one from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: http://www.ncadv.org/need-help/get-help .
One faith-based resource for those in the Harrisburg, PA or Portland, OR areas, is the Oasis Bible Study sponsored by Living Waters of Hope. It is a free class for victims and survivors of domestic abuse, as well as, any woman who just wants to learn more about how to effectively support and encourage these wounded women. For class information, please go to http://www.livingwatersofhope.com/oasis-bible-study/ . For class details, please call Living Waters of Hope at 503-850-8225.
As I celebrate this year with my family, a part of my heart will feel a deep sadness and a significant concern for all members of these precious families struggling with the destruction that abuse causes. I also want to acknowledge that there are women who have made the difficult decision to leave their abusive husbands and are typically facing the holidays with limited finances and challenging visitation issues with that abusive husband and father. May we not forget to lift our wounded sisters and brothers up to the Lord and even look for ways to help them during this time of year.
Lord, may you protect the innocent, bind up the brokenhearted and bring justice where oppression resides. May we have the heart of Jesus for those struggling within our faith communities, especially during this holiday season.
Offering hope and healing to victims and survivors of abuse
Raising awareness of domestic abuse within the faith community