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Domestic Abuse in the Church a 'Silent Epidemic'


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Domestic abuse is an issue rarely discussed in the Christian community, yet according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.

However, abuse isn't limited to just physical violence. Women also suffer verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of their husbands or partners.

Countless Christian women, including pastor's and minister's wives, are abused in some way every day.

The problem is often referred to as the silent epidemic.

Victims of domestic abuse in Christian families often feel they have no voice on this issue because of the church's failure to understand the prevalence of abuse.

A study called "I Believe You: Sexual Violence and the Church," by Sojourners found that 65 percent of pastors have spoken one or fewer times about domestic and sexual violence.

Twenty-two percent indicated they addressed it annually, while 33 percent mentioned it "rarely." Ten percent of pastors said they had never taught on it.

CBN News recently spoke with Dr. Benjamin Keyes, with Regent University's Center for Trauma Studies, about the problem.

He shared why so many Christian women stay in abusive relationships; and, the conversation the church needs to have on the issue.

"Unfortunately, in Christian marriages we have a much greater frequency of domestic violence than we do in non-Christian homes," Keyes explained.

Keyes said part of the reason for that is in a traditional role structure, whether in evangelical, fundamental, or charismatic home, the woman is subservient to the man. When that gets out of place the man gets disturbed.

"He will do anything, including physical violence to maintain that control within the family structure. And he'll do it with his spouse, he'll do it with the children, and that's why we have a continuing rise in Christian homes," he said.

Keyes said that women are not speaking up for several reason.

"It brings on that shadow of shame and a lot of guilt and 'I'm not going to do anything to rock the boat so I'll keep the secret in the context of the family,'" he said.

Keyes added that women stay because of finances or their children and that they often believe there is not a way out.

Most states have domestic violence or battery programs but, Keyes said the help shouldn't stop there.

"(Abuse) doesn't stop until there is help, until there is intervention."

Find out how you or your church can help break the cycle of abuse by visiting Focus Ministries.

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About The Author

Charlene Aaron

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter, backup news anchor, and co-host of The Prayerlink on the CBN News Channel. She covers various social issues, such as abortion, gender identity, race relations, and more. Before joining CBN News in 2003, she was a personal letter writer for Dr. Pat Robertson. Charlene attended Old Dominion University and Elizabeth City State University. She is an ordained minister and pastor’s wife. She lives in Smithfield, VA, with her husband.