Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers

Biblical Counselling UK is pleased to announce a new publishing initiative, Gospel Hope for Life, in partnership with IVP. The first book in the series, Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers, is by Helen Thorne. Steve Midgley, Executive Director of Biblical Counselling UK, spoke to her about her reasons for writing.

Why did you want to write a book about domestic abuse?
I’ve been privileged to have a lot of people confide in me about their struggles with abuse. Some of those people have been my counselees, some my friends and others my family. Their stories have varied widely but they’ve all had one thing in common – they’ve said that most people don’t really know how to help them. I’ve heard the same thing from many church leaders – they can often be the first port of call for congregation members in distress but struggle to know how to support them practically, wisely and biblically. So, when Biblical Counselling UK first began to consider its new publishing programme with IVP, domestic abuse seemed like a good place to start.

Why do you think that this is a particularly important issue for Christians to be thinking about?
As Christians, we rightly hold a very high view of marriage but that means that people can find it difficult to seek help when their marriage is going horribly wrong. Much of the material available online or in books comes from a secular perspective – such resources may be brilliant at helping people find a new place to live, or work out how to get a court order, but they don’t help people turn to the Lord in their struggles. The Bible has a great deal to say about abuse and holds out great hope for those being hurt. It’s important we know how to pass on that truth and that hope to those who need to hear.

What do you think are our chief blind spots in regard to domestic abuse?
For some of us, our blind spot is simply that we don’t think abuse happens in our church community. We can also assume that it can’t happen to those in church leadership but abuse is a reality in our congregations and it can impact people at all ages and stages of their Christian walk.

For others of us, our blind spot is that we think domestic abuse is a violent husband hurting his wife. But men can be abused by women, too. Abuse isn’t just limited to marriages – elderly parents can be abused by their adult children, adults can be abused by their siblings – and the pain inflicted isn’t always physical, it can be emotional, sexual, financial or spiritual as well.

I think the third blind spot is imagining that there is nothing we can do to support those who suffer. We can think this is a pastoral situation for the professionals alone but the reality is there is much we can do to help.

Isn’t this an area where you need expertise? Are you worried that you will encourage people to be involved in something that they aren’t equipped for?
People who are suffering domestic abuse often benefit from support from a range of people. Some of those roles require specialist training and the book certainly doesn’t encourage people to try to do the jobs that only the police, social services and lawyers should do. There is, however, a massive amount of support and encouragement that pastors, small group leaders and Christian friends can give.

We can pray with understanding, help people grasp their identity in Christ, bring words of comfort, talk about the strength that the Spirit provides, point people to the fact that God hates abuse, model what healthy, grace-filled relationships look like. And we can take practical steps to help people prepare to move from abuse to freedom, e.g. by accompanying them to visit those who can provide specialist advice and helping them with the practical tasks of daily living. We are all equipped for these things and it’s good to encourage each other to roll up our sleeves and get involved.

Who, particularly, do you think should be reading this book?
I’d love anyone who has a heart to stand alongside those who are being abused to read this book. It might be particularly relevant to church leaders, small group leaders, biblical counsellors and pastoral workers, but anyone who wants to spur on their brothers and sisters in Christ to hope and freedom will find fuel for thought, prayer and action.

Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers, by Helen Thorne, is published by IVP and is available from The Good Book Company and 10ofthose.