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 best address it? We want to educate and empower Christians with knowledge and resources on domestic violence. In that vein, here are fifteen informative books on domestic violence.
Why we like it: This resource is a classic. It’s been around for a long time and is—sadly—still very relevant today. The author makes a strong connection between bad theology and abuse of power. The book's primary audience is pastors. Al Miles (a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence) calls out pastors for apathy and inadequate response to the domestic abuse epidemic and urges them to become educated and proactive about domestic abuse in their congregations.
2. Divorce and Remarriage in the Church by David Instone-Brewer
Why we like it: This might seem like an off resource for this list. But considering the message of many prominent evangelical pastors to remain married to abusers, we think it’s crucial to establish the biblical basis for divorce. This is the popular version of an academic book on what Scripture says about divorce. But in affirming Christian women’s right to leave and divorce abusive husbands, we center women’s safety and agency.
3. Opening the Door: A Pastor's Guide to Addressing Domestic Violence in Premarital Counseling by Susan Yarrow Morris
Why we like it: This classic was written for the express purpose of addressing intimate partner violence (IPV) in premarital counseling. Other pre-marital counseling books may have a chapter on this topic, but this resource is a treasure trove of helpful information. The book begins by defining IPV for pastors. It goes on to establish the theological case for addressing IPV in counseling and give practical help on 1) how to counsel and screen for abuse 2) what to do if IPV is disclosed in counseling.
4. Ending Violence in Teen Dating Relationships: A Resource Guide for Parents and Pastors by Al Miles
Why we like it: This resource is similar to his other book, Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know (recommended above), but this one is addressed to parents and significant people in the lives of teenagers. It’s full of good information, including what relationship red flags parents should be looking; why teen dating relationships can become violent; and what churches can do to help. Bonus: it’s an easy read.
5. Breaking the Silence: The Church Responds to Domestic Violence by Anne O. Weatherholt
Why we like it: This book is small and concise, but packed with a lot of good information. It contains little known but basic info and stats about domestic violence; a section on debunked myths about domestic violence, and a list of signs that a relationship is violent. It’s primarily addressed to pastors and church leaders, but it’s a useful resource for anyone.
6. The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and Respond by Patricia Evans
Why we like it: Though we often don’t take any kind of abuse seriously enough, emotional, spiritual, and verbal abuse are all easily downplayed as lesser forms of domestic violence. But verbal abuse may include or eventually lead to physical or sexual violence, and it remains an equally serious offense on its own. This books takes verbal abuse seriously and encourages victims to identify verbally abusive partners.
7. No Place for Abuse: Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark
Why we like it: This book frames domestic violence as a global epidemic, “the leading cause of injury and death to women worldwide.” It also establishes a hard-to-hear fact: domestic violence rates are the same among active church goers as among the general population. Clark Kroeger and Nason-Clark exhort believers to listen to women’s voices, correct bad theology, and make all homes safe for women.
8. Religion and Intimate Partner Violence: Understanding the Challenges and Proposing Solutions by Nancy Nason-Clark, Barbara Fisher-Townsend, Catherine Holtmann, and Stephen McMullin
Why we like it: This book is based on twenty-five years of academic research on intimate partner violence within deeply religious families. The book is divided into parts: victims/survivors, abusers, congregations, training religious leaders, and collaborative community responses. Each chapter helps religious leaders understand what they personally can do to help and what they should partner with others to accomplish.
9. We Were the Least of These: Reading the Bible with Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Elaine A. Heath
Why we like it: This book admits right away that most of what’s been written on the Bible and abuse is harmful and re-traumatizing for victims. But theologian Elaine Heath is a survivor herself and she allows that first-hand experience to shape her interpretation of the Bible. Heath suggests that the Bible, far from siding with perpetrators, is a story of healing and liberation for survivors of sexual abuse.
10. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope by Leslie Vernick
Why we like it: This book primarily deals with emotional abuse, which isn't often clearly addressed in resources on intimate partner violence. It examines what marriage is supposed to be like—a safe haven for both husband and wife. Vernick outlines what a wife should do if a husband becomes emotionally abusive; how to identify those toxic behaviors; how to protect and stand up for ourselves; and when leaving is the right, safe step.
11. Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse by Ruth Tucker
Why we like it: This is an inspiring and difficult read. In riveting first person narrative, Tucker recounts her marriage to an abuser who used the Bible and headship/submission doctrine to justify his violent, threatening, and controlling behavior. Tucker is an excellent, personable writer who easily engages the reader with her story. She also makes a compelling, systematic case for an explicit connection between theology of gender roles and violence.
12. When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships by Jill Cory, Karen McAndless-Davis
Why we like it: This is a small, but very helpful book for women who may not even know that they’re in an abusive relationship—all they know is that something's wrong. It has charts, lists, exercises, and resources that address all forms of abuse, including emotional, financial, and verbal abuse, and help women identify what's happening in their relationship.
13. The Courage Coach: A Practical, Friendly Guide on How to Heal from Abuse by Ashley Easter
Why we like it: This is a short, popular book about moving from identifying abuse to escaping and beginning to heal. As someone who experienced abuse, Easter brings hands-on insight and understanding about what it takes to leave abuse and seek health and healing.
14. Healing Voices: Women of Faith Who Survived Abuse Speak Out by J. Harris
Why we like it: This book includes eleven inspiring real-life stories from women survivors of violence. Each of the women who contributed found hope and renewal in their faith in God. This book powerfully depicts how faith can help bring healing after abuse.
15. Push Back the Dark: Companioning Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Elizabeth M. Altmaier and Mary S. Hulst
Why we like it: Many adult believers have suffered sexual abuse as children or youths, but they haven’t talked about their abuse in the church or asked for help. This book examines how the church has inflected additional wounds on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and made it hard for victims to trust religious leaders. Then, it outlines how we can make the church a safe place for these victims to share their trauma and receive support and appropriate pastoral care.
We hope you find these resources informative, healing, and inspiring.
According to recent research, 90% of pastors say they’ve dealt with abuse and harassment, but only half say they’ve been trained on how to respond. CBE is creating a resource to help churches and seminaries address and prevent abuse. We’ve already completed the research and we’re currently soliciting and contracting contributing writers—at a cost of $35,000. Will you help pastors respond to domestic violence?