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Abuse

In 1995, economists discovered that 100 million females had vanished. Today, that number may be as high as 200 million according to Amartya Sen, a retired professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard. Sen received a Nobel Prize for his work, which prompted humanitarians and researchers to employ a gender-lens in their research and work. With one voice, they demonstrated how patriarchy is one of the most malicious and debilitating forces in history. Because of it, females are and have been abused and slaughtered on a mass scale. Amartya was the first to sound the alarm: females were suffering a genocide. But who was paying attention? Our privilege as Western Christians, and especially evangelicals, has distanced us from this crisis, and from the experiences of girls and women globally.... Read more
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month or DVAM. Domestic violence is a pressing problem every day and month of the year. But in October, we set aside time to discuss how widespread and pervasive domestic abuse is in our world and in our churches (including physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse) and what we can do to set wrong to right. Have you experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, or any kind of intimate partner trauma? Are you looking for healing, resources, and qualified help but don’t know where to start? Are you a pastor or spiritual leader who wants to help and not hurt? Is your church ready to study the link between theology and domestic violence? Are you a believer who wants to become more educated on domestic violence and how to... Read more
You’ve probably heard about the tragic murder of Iowan Mollie Tibbetts by now. Tibbetts was reportedly killed by a man because she rejected his advances and he was angered by her refusal.  In a 2016 survey on street harassment, thirty percent of women respondents said they’ve been followed while on a run. Eighteen percent said they’ve been propositioned by a stranger. And according to a recent survey by an anti-harassment non-profit, eighty-one percent of women have been sexually harassed at least once and fifty-one percent of women reported being touched sexually without permission.  Being a woman in public is an uncomfortable and often dangerous assignment. I’d wager that most women know the perils of rejecting a man’s advances by the time they... Read more
Recently, my husband wrote about his own journey in realizing that sexual aggression toward women is not about his own moral purity (not all men!), but about the worth and value of women. He was responding to a colleague’s story of a man’s verbal sexual aggression toward her just two weeks ago–in church. My husband writes: “It took me years to realize that such aggression is embedded in the male culture in which I participated daily at school, work, and church. I cannot begin here to unravel that culture but I know that we very much need to do it. We need men to own their culture and the actions it helps to create. We need to call sexism what it is–abhorrent.” Sexism is multi-layered, but we can start unraveling it by acknowledging the simple inte... Read more
The news coming out of Willow Creek Community Church recently has been nothing short of tragic. It has been painful to hear the stories of the women who were victimized, and heartbreaking to know that their church and their pastors betrayed them, neglected to help them, and called them liars. Sadly, the mishandling of abuse allegations is not unique to Willow Creek. We have seen and read story after story of women reporting abuse to a pastor or church leader, only to be told that they were somehow responsible, or to have their stories ignored. We have seen pastors stand up and “confess” their sins only after they have been exposed and backed into a corner, while congregations give standing ovations. We have seen churches protect leaders over victims, and keep abusers in their... Read more
Gricel Medina
I was fourteen the first time I rode the subway alone. I remember my parents drilling me about practical safety and how to spot a predator. But in making me aware of the danger and how to respond to it, they trained me to guard myself against abuse. Conversations like these are crucial. They promote wisdom and awareness, and they also arm us against those with predatory intentions. The church would be a safer place for vulnerable people if we had these same conversations on what abuse is and how we can protect ourselves from it—not just with church board members and staff, but also with entire congregations. As a pastor, I’ve facilitated many conversations on how to identify predators and protect young people, especially young girls. Here are some of the principles I use to id... Read more
Our expectations for how men should treat women are often stated in the negative—don't abuse; don’t oppress; don’t sexually assault. These are obvious, bare minimum standards for male behavior that shouldn’t have to be stated, but here we are. Sometimes, Christian men will reference their sense of responsibility for women in their lives—mothers, sisters, daughters—to support taking a strong stance against abuse. For example, in response to recently resurfaced comments concerning domestic violence by SWBTS president Paige Patterson, LifeWay president Thom Rainer wrote:  "These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our granddaughters, and our wives. We thank God for them. And I stand with all who say 'no' to any type of abuse... Read more
The church has been increasingly criticized, especially in the last couple of years, for responding poorly to or remaining silent about sexual, physical, and spiritual abuse. Survivors and allies are calling the church out for enabling and overlooking abuse, and urging Christians to educate themselves on the issue.  Many churches have a tendency to keep abuse in-house, prioritizing the reputation of the church over the trauma needs of abuse survivors. Worse, they sometimes even defend perpetrators and deliberately silence victims. Why have we sometimes struggled to do justice and not harm? Sometimes, churches respond unjustly to abuse because they elevate the word of powerful men above the word of women. Other times, churches fail survivors because their theology doesn’t easil... Read more
Editor’s Note: This article makes a case for restorative justice in the wake of #MeToo as one way to transform our violent culture and challenge patriarchal beliefs at the root of sexual violence. The article’s intent is to ask what comes after #MeToo and propose a way forward that could transform and restore our society. We affirm that no survivor should be pressured to pursue restorative justice. On a temperate Southern California evening in 1982, I was raped. It was one of those all-too-common stories of a college girl being assaulted at a party. It was also one of those well-hidden stories of a Christian male refusing to take “no” for an answer. I remember that, when he began to pull at my pants, I said, “No! We are not going to do this.” As he cont... Read more
It’s been an agonizing couple of weeks for survivor Jules Woodsen. Woodsen was sexually assaulted by megachurch pastor Andy Savage in 1998, while he was serving as her youth pastor. On March 20, 2018, Savage released a statement admitting he had abused his power over Woodsen, and announcing that he would step down from his pastoral position at Highpoint Church. A few short days after Savage resigned, yet another prominent megachurch pastor was in the news. Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, has been accused of sexual harassment. That story is still unfolding. It’s worth noting that both pastors received standing ovations from their congregations when they made a statement in response to the abuse allegations. Both churches claimed they took proper steps to a... Read more

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