Domestic Violence Awareness Month – When Abuse Hits the Body of Christ 

Featured Stories-Leslie Montgomery & Her Bible

By Leslie Montgomery 

“In the event no one has ever said it, allow me to apologize for all the men in your life who have abused you, starting with your dad.” The words came from evangelical best-selling author, Neil T. Anderson, whose books, The Bondage Breaker, Victory Over the Darkness, and The Steps to Freedom in Christ, sold millions of copies. He had just read my memoir and graciously written the Forward. An unexpected gasp came from deep within my soul. As I covered my mouth to prevent further utterance, tears poured over my hands like a waterfall.   

My family tree began when my mother was forced by her own mother to marry my father after he date-raped her at gunpoint. It was the early 1960s when domestic violence wasn’t talked about publicly, let alone sexual assault or date-rape. He came from a well-respected family. She’d spent most of her 17 years in and out of foster care and homes of relatives. At nineteen, he’d already spent time in jail. She was naïve and innocent. Her mother gave him a choice: marry my daughter or I’ll press charges for statutory rape. He chose a wedding in his parents’ backyard two days later. She got a prison term that lasted twenty-five years, after which he divorced her to marry another woman. 

As a child, growing up in a home wrought with violence, and sexual and emotional abuse, every part of me ached and cried out for stability, safety, peace, and love. Although my desires went unmet, I didn’t know anything different. As my dad found comfort in the arms of other women and alcohol, I watched my mother make excuses for my father’s behavior, ignore red flags that should have been deal breakers, live in fear of both being with him and without, and witness her clean up after him again and again. Even worse, I watched her become immobilized to act in defending her helpless children. 

Children learn what they’re taught. Every time I watched my father abuse my mother, and each time he turned his wrath and deviate desires onto me, I swore I’d never become her, but I did. From my first real boyfriend at fifteen throughout most of my adulthood, I was in abusive after abusive relationships. Still looking for a safe place to land after giving my heart to Jesus, I married a man just like my father. Six years later, after several failed attempts to leave him, he went to jail for two-and-a-half years for breaking my lower back, and I crawled away with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It took years of counseling, self-reflection, and leaning into my relatively newfound faith in Christ to find healing and break the cycle of abuse in my life.   

In the Body of Christ, we often believe abuse doesn’t happen within the walls of the church, or at least not our specific church, but the truth is that statistics are comparatively the same inside the Body of Christ as they are outside of it: over 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.1 In fact, my husband was a professing believer who worked for a prominent, world-wide ministry. 

Why don’t victims just leave? There are many pieces to the puzzle that answers that question, but for me, as a Christian woman, I didn’t want to disappoint God by separating from or divorcing my husband. He badgered and ladened me with Scriptural abuse. I’d given up a good job on the other side of the country and left my entire support system to marry him. I felt isolated and alone. I was ashamed and didn’t want to be a burden to family or friends. Further, he monitored my every move. If I dared to step out of the small circle of life he extended to me, I’d be physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually assaulted until I submitted back into its confines. Complete and utter loyalty and obedience to him were never to be compromised. Threats of murder assured compliance. To add fuel to the fire, he controlled the finances. I had been stripped of my autonomy and it was replaced with fear, guilt, and shame. Many victims of abuse face these same challenges, among others, including threats to keep or take their children away from them or harm to family members. 

Women and children enduring abuse are seldom far from my heart or mind. As a survivor I’m more than aware of the struggle to find freedom from the complicated web of abuse and the cycle that ensnares victims. I know that they need prayer, support, encouragement, and resources to find freedom. I also know that when others condemn you for staying, fault you for not leaving, use Scripture to encourage you to remain in the relationship, or turn their backs on you because you don’t take their advice, it causes more pain, guilt, and shame.         

With Domestic Violence Awareness Month upon us in October, I pray we will have eyes to see the heart of God for the abused within our community. In the Bible, all violence is considered an offense against God and humanity and is associated with wickedness and condemned as “detestable to the Lord” (Ps. 11, Proverbs 3 and 10). Violence against women is particularly condemned. In Jewish law, rape was viewed as equivalent to murder (Deut. 22:26), as was pressuring a woman physically (Deut. 22:25-27) or psychologically (Deut. 22:28-29). Further, the Psalms portray oppression in a manner that echoes abuse survivors’ words about their abusers: “His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity” (Ps. 10). 

Helping the helpless. To understand why domestic and family violence is a problem in the church, we must be willing to dialogue about violence, power, gender, and marriage within the wider faith community. Scripture supports God’s desire for a dramatic transformation of society for those who are burdened, marginalized, or unjustly treated (Luke 4:18-21; Proverbs 14:31; Matthew 9:13; Mark 3:4-5). 

Next, we must look at domestic violence in its totality: it’s more than physical. In fact, defined, it is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. That includes behaviors of physical violence, threats, emotional or financial abuse, sexual assault, and child and elder abuse.   

Finally, we must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to help those in need. I volunteer at the Nampa Family Justice Center. Why? When my mate was originally arrested, he bailed out of jail and came straight for me. While he was there, I’d gone to my local domestic violence alliance. As he sought to regain power and control over me one last time, I ran into the arms of trained advocates who knew exactly how to console, protect, and stand with me over the coming months financially, judicially, emotionally, and physically. Without reservation, I will say that God used those women to save my life.   

While you may not feel led to be a volunteer, there are other ways to help. One way is to financially support the alliance as they help victims become survivors. Another way is to offer support to them through prayer. Statistically, you or someone you know has or is being abused.  The Nampa Family Justice Center has resources available for you if you just want to talk, or if you want to help someone. You can also go to the center’s website at Changing Lives-Inspiring Hope-Providing Encouragement ( or call them at 208-475-5700. Or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233; hours: 24/7; languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service. 


Source: 1National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Statistics, 

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