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. A link to the next article is provided at the conclusion of this one.]
6. “When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, [then] negotiations can begin.”
This statement appears at first glance to leave control in the hands of the wife – this is a huge difference in Dobson’s statement, as opposed to the typical teaching of fundamentalist and evangelical churches. After all, Dobson says the wife gets to choose the counselor – he doesn’t abandon that choice into the hands of the church.
However, there is another misnomer hidden in here.
Up to this point, Dobson empowers the victim. Now, all the sudden, the gears have shifted to “negotiation.”
Negotiation is always a give and take between two parties – I give a little, he gives a little, and we meet somewhere in the middle.
The abuser just won the game! And the church just took away every bit of leverage from the victim. If the victim is required to negotiate – the abuser always wins! This concept ignores the fact that the victim has a righteous cause here – there is nothing to negotiate. By saying she is supposed to negotiate, she must give up something of her righteous cause.
And by giving up something from her righteous cause, the abuser is gaining something in his unrighteous cause. These are the only factors under review at this point because until abuse has been addressed, no other issues in the relationship can be.
But the church is patting itself on the back for being so reasonable – and not like those churches that just won’t deal with abuse.
It is important that an abuser not be given the idea that things are “negotiable.” Terms of counseling, separation, child visitation, support, etc. can be worked out – but the central issue of abuse, contains no negotiable elements. Even the fact that there are going to be stated, and accepted, terms of counseling, separation, child visitation, etc. is not negotiable. So this is still not a negotiation.
The abuser will be treated with respect – including respecting his time, his rights to access to his children, etc. But this is still not a negotiation. It is simply a matter of treating another person with respect, which not negotiating anything about the issue of abuse.
You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here: