Domestic Violence: How NOT to respond

Helen Thorne | 18 Mar 2014

Being told of domestic violence can come as a real shock - especially if the perpetrator of the violence (male or female) is someone you know and like. Because of that, it's easy to let unhelpful things come out of our mouths. Here are our top 5 things that should never be said:

  • I don't believe it! People very rarely make allegations like that up. It's probably taken them months, if not years, to pluck up the courage to tell someone - and they might well be thinking that they deserve the beatings and don't deserve help - so make sure you don't destoy what little hope they have by implying you think they're lying.
  • It'll soon blow over! Domestic violence is not a storm in a teacup. It is external evidence of deep internal problems. Each individual outburst may dissipate quite quickly but the problems will linger and intensify if they are not dealt with.
  • What did you do to deserve that? No-one is perfect but no-one, absolutely no-one, deserves to be physically assaulted by a spouse or other family member. Be careful not to suggest that they deserve to be hit.
  • All marriages have their problems. Indeed they do! But not all marriages contain violence. Empathising by sharing your struggles may well be appropriate but minimising the pain of others is never helpful.
  • Well, you can't leave them! Marriage is a special and precious covenant - one that should not be broken lightly. As Christians, it's important to emphasise that, in the grace of God, it is definitely possible to work through the issues that are fuelling violence and for a marriage to survive but there often needs to be a time of separation while counselling is sought and that period probably will not be short. Sometimes (if the abuser does not change) complete separation will be necessary. Utilising services like refuges can be an invaluable step that can ultimately bring about the change that every party needs.

Helen Thorne

Helen Thorne is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK. She formerly worked with the London City Mission and has written Hope in an Anxious World, Purity Is Possible, Walking with Domestic Abuse Sufferers and 5 Things to Pray for Your City. She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.