Domestic violence thrives when we are silent. As the body of Christ, we need to acknowledge abuse rather than avoid it. Justin Holcomb encourages all church leaders to acknowledge the reality of abuse within their own communities.

“As a minister you have a lot of people’s attention on Sundays and other days. You can actually reference domestic abuse and sexual abuse. You can say, ‘if you need to talk about this, I want to be a person who will listen and serve you. I want this church to be a church that is a culture that is safe.’”

“That’s shocking to many people who’ve suffered abuse because they go to church and they don’t hear about abuse. They think it’s something that the gospel doesn’t relate to, and if it does, they’re not sure how it does. It becomes their own secret that they just suffer silently with.”

We can create an environment for victims to speak up and then remind them of their true identity in Christ. Justin speaks to the power of togetherness and explains how much of an impact it has in the hope and healing process.

The most powerful thing someone can do for someone who has suffered abuse is listen and believe. That sounds almost cliché and trite, but it’s not. They think they’re not going to be believed and think they’re going to be given suspicious questions like, ‘What happened?’ or ‘maybe there’s an excuse for why that person did that.'”

“Someone who has been sinned against and has had an identity bestowed to them by an experience of shame, needs to hear – not just once – that they’re pure, that they’re covered by the righteousness of Christ, that they are loved. They need to hear that repeated over and over again. They need to have the voice of the togetherness of the community, small groups, the church, their friends, reminding them and fighting the lies that they will hear.”

“We all need to hear that togetherness and then that builds a culture that doesn’t tolerate this so that when there are questions of inappropriate ways of relating, of joking about women’s bodies or men’s bodies, or that are just demeaning, that it gets nipped in the bud quickly.”

The church plays an important role in the fight against domestic violence and sexual abuse. By refusing to remain silent, we can work together to bring about hope and healing for victims.  

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology and apologetics at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. Justin serves on the boards of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments), Leaders Collective, and REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade). He is author of several books including  .

The role of the church in the fight against domestic violence
Also on this edition of Neil Stavem
Leith Anderson on church and culture