By Danni Moss
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[To read all the articles in this series, see Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous, Series. There is a link to the next article in the series at the conclusion of this one.
4. “If he never responds, she never returns.”
Another thing Dobson doesn’t say is that most of the churches which will support a separation in the case of abuse, fail to follow the Word through to its competion. They will subsequently sentence that victim to eternal limbo since they believe abuse is not grounds for divorce. There are a pile of reasons this is unbiblical – some of which I have just explained above.
However, this statement “if he never responds, she never returns” reflects a woeful misunderstanding of the nature of “Christian” abusers. They may be willing to mistreat their families, but they are not willing to lose their status – which includes other people’s perceptions of them in the church.
“Christian” abusers will play a very long game of apparent compliance to retain face and retain control of their victims. Their motivation is control – they will not throw in the towel just because their wife left them! They can out-play just about anything the church has to offer.
Another tactic an abuser may take when given such an ultimatum is to dig in his heels. While abusers are universally manipulative – since manipulation is a powerful tool in the power/control game – they also recognize it immediately when it is turned their way. Rather than caving, the abuser is more likely to call the victim’s bluff.
Instead of jumping through the hoops to get his wife back, he may entrench, simply refusing to be played. But he will use the situation as a manipulation tool of his own. He can eloquently point out his wife’s, and the church’s, manipulative motivations in righteous indignation and insult. Having this clearly unrighteous motive pointed out will have every scrabbling for cover – and a new plan, which will give the abuser the upper hand because he has now effectively directed the terms of engagement.
The church’s continued persistence in the mistaken confidence that they know what they are doing with abuse plays right into the hands of abusers.
You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here: