In a church context, a minister will often know both the victim and the perpetrator of violence. This dual relationship can be highly problematic, especially when the stories told by both parties do not agree. It can be extremely difficult to reconcile that someone we knew, loved and trusted as a friend, could be a perpetrator of violence.
Regardless of our feelings, or our love for both members of a partnership, we MUST put the needs of the victim first. We have often put other concerns first – forgiveness, reconciliation, marriage vows – but we have neglected to get the victim to safety. The safety of a domestic violence survivor is the most important factor. Any other conversations, any other concerns have to wait until that vulnerable person is protected.
In the past, we have simplistically advocated for forgiveness, without taking the opportunity to ask what form this forgiveness might take. Too many times, Christians have been asked to reinstate their partner to their former role after forgiving them. This has put the victim back in harm’s way, and the perpetrator back in power.
Working with victims and perpetrators of violence is not something to be entered into lightly – generic counseling and ministerial training do not provide the adequate skills required. Domestic and family violence has taken too tight a hold on our nation – professional help must be sought to release its grip.