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.]
5. “When (and if) her husband acknowledges he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it…” I appreciate the fact that Dobson continually appears to “leave the control” in the hands of the wife even after the abuser has admitted he has a problem and is willing to submit to counseling. This again, is in direct opposition to commonly taught ideas in both fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity.
However, I have to say, what he actually says is such a tiny step away from common practice it still leaves the door wide open for disaster.
First, the focus is on externals here, and victims can “see” past externals to truth the church isn’t willing to look at. Will the wife’s judgment be respected if she says he is faking, even if he appears to be doing and saying everything right?
In the usual church practice, I know she won’t be respected! The church will question her motives – since she has an evil heart, too, and is probably being deceived by it. After all, “we” have to remember she probably just wants a divorce and she’s determined to make that happen – right?
Abusers are masters at being able to play it all perfectly for public view and still be saying the same old things to their wife in private. And some of those things are very difficult for someone outside the relationship to grasp, unless they are very familiar with the dynamics of abuse.
For instance, persistant disrespect reflected in many “small” ways would tell me he isn’t repentant – he’s playing the game. And continued threats of harm in private while weaping on the altar in public are very common! But if a wife attempts to tell a counselor of these private dealings with her abuser, she will be assumed to be exaggerating, especially since her abuser will assure the counselor of his wonderful intentions and imply his wife is over-stating or mis-interpreting his intentions, out of her angst against him. Not many counselors will fail to be at least torn between the two versions of “he said, she said.”
You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here: