By Danni Moss
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Dr. Dobson is considered a leader in modern Christianity and his family advice is highly regarded. And while I do feel this advice in his book Love Must be Tough leaves some dangerous ends hanging, I also want to point out the fact that the Focus on the Family websites offer the best collection of information for abuse victims that I’ve seen provided by a major Christian source. There is a whole lot here that is very right.
The Focus on the Family website Troubled With has fairly thorough section on Abuse and Addiction.
The very first thing they do in the section about Physical and Verbal Abuse section is acknowledge the reality of verbal and emotional abuse. This is HUGE. Most of the mainline Christian teaching on divorce focuses strictly on physical abuse.
The site also offers further information and validation of the reality of Emotional and Verbal Abuse in a separate section dedicated to the topic. This section validates that emotional and verbal abuse are literally damaging. Since the page is focused on defining the issue, it includes very little advice on dealing with emotional and verbal abuse.
They also recommend the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. I strongly concur that this book is helpful with this issue. Grasping the central principles of this book made a difference in my own walk through emotional and verbal abuse.
I wouldn’t want to give the impression that getting support and reading a book will fix emotional and verbal abuse, but the advice given is valuable, as far as it goes.
In the section Recognizing Abuse: Both Seen and Unseen the site offers a powerful bit of information – and accompanying validation of why verbal abuse is extremely dangerous.
“What makes verbal abuse particularly threatening is the fact that verbal abuse always precedes physical abuse. The progression to this level of attack may take years — or months.” In fact, while all eyes have been on physical abuse, verbal abuse is the abuse that underlines it all. The mouth tells the truth of the heart long before the fists do.
The real issue is the hatred in the heart – which the mouth tells first, and some day the fists (or other physical violence) will follow up on the murderous spirit that has existed in the heart all along. This murderous spirit has been assaulting the victim from the beginning – it doesn’t start with, nor is abuse quantified by, physical violence – either in its intensity or its frequency.
In this section is also the page I wrote all the other sections on – How should a wife deal with her husband’s abusive tendencies?
The closest thing I saw to the site ever getting near the question of divorce was in the section Have you ever been concerned that exercising the concept of “tough love” in a marital crisis could potentially kill the marriage? The “D” word is never mentioned. But at least there is not an avoidance of the idea that confrontation could result in “marital failure.”
One little misnomer here is the idea that the confrontation caused the end of a marriage. The confrontation merely revealed the death that was already there.
The section How to Help an Abused Wife offers some great advice, too. There are several extremely positive points in this article — including no admonitions to get her to go to Christian counseling! The writer also encourages supporters not to offer judgment, to validate the reality of what she is experiencing and her decision to leave her spouse if she should choose to do so, and to keep all confidences private (a common breach within Christianity).
I found the section To Separate or Not to Separate to be a little weak, while still containing good information. Probably the primary caution I saw was the idea that “both parties need to own their part of the problem.” Since this article is in the section on abuse, one would assume it is directed to abuse victims and well as to abusers. This idea gives the impression that the victim has some part of blame in the abuse.
Every marriage can use work since there is not a single perfect person on this earth. But it is hazardous to put abuse and normal marital issues on the same playing field as somehow equivalent. They definitely are not.
All in all, the site has a lot of good information. As I said, it is the most comprehensive and accurate collection of information on the subject of abuse and dealing with abuse that I have seen from a major Christian source. For that reason, I would definitely recommend it to a believer who wants information about abuse and may be concerned about getting bad advice from non-Christian sources.