Some Real Stories

This page tells the stories of some people who have experienced the intersection of family violence and the church. After each story there is a reflection of what  insights the stories might reveal about the particular congregation and its attitudes, and how those attitudes might affect other situations.

None of this is intended to be judgmental in any way. And, as always, we are protecting the identity of people by using false names and keeping details fairly general.


Today we went to our local markets to sell prams and other recycled baby gear. We do this most months as a way of meeting people and also serving the community by providing essential products that are not readily available in our town.

During the course of the morning I struck up a conversation with a lady who wanted to find out about our church. She went on to share that she was attending a church in a nearby town, but as a single mother she felt under a lot of guilt put on her by people in the church.

Claris asked what was our church's attitude towards single mothers. I told her that we felt that there was no point trying to guilt people for what's happened in the past. We have some single mothers in our congregation and we love them the same way we love every other member of the church. What's done is done and God forgives people for their past and so it's wrong for us to try and hold that against people now.

She went on to tell me that if she hadn't left her husband she would be dead by now.

She ended up by asking could she come and talk these things through some time. I said "Of course, that's what we do."

Claris, it turns out, fled with her children, from a violent relationship. The people in the church see a single mother and have made assumptions about her situation. They assume she has been immoral and project their judgment onto her.

There is a value system in many churches which values marriage so highly that anyone who has a bad experience of marriage and seems to threaten the ideal of marriage may be treated as second class citizens. This particular church seems to be  condemning Claris for not fitting the mould.

There is a bigger issue though. If there are other women in that congregation who are in violent relationships, they may conclude that they too will be condemned if they try to escape the relationship.  Worse, if there are men in the congregation who are committing acts of violence, they may conclude that they have the support of the church for their actions, and even of God.

Claris has been unable to find christian people who will support her and help her move on. In many ways the church is now continuing the violence of the husband by keeping her emotions trapped.

On one occasion the religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They knew Jesus taught grace but the law said she should be stoned to death. They wanted to trick Him into either advocating breaking the religious law or into contradicting His own teaching. Jesus in effect said, "Yes she is guilty and according to the law she should die. But only those who have never sinned themselves are qualified to carry out the sentence." Nobody was qualified. (See John 8:1-11)


Linda is a young christian woman who is very easily manipulated by other people. She fell into a relationship with a man who promised her much but gave very little. She doesn't talk much about the relationship. He took her away to a big city, far from her parents and friends. On at least one occasion he raped her. She became pregnant, and returned home to live with her parents.

Linda now has a lovely little girl. They both live with Linda's parents who have been supportive of her. The responsibility of being a mother has brought new maturity and self-confidence to Linda.

Linda and her daughter come to church some times, when both of them are well enough. We have tried to be encouraging towards Linda and offer whatever support we can.

Some time ago the partner came and demanded access visits to the daughter. Because of his history of violence, these visits were under the supervision of some church members and were conducted within the church building. While we were always courteous towards him, we were under no illusions about the possibilities that he could harm the baby. After a few visits, and much threatening through lawyers, he left town and hasn't been seen since.

Because Linda was a long distance away while she was in the violent relationship, we were unable to offer support to her at the time. Since she has returned we have given her practical support and ideas about how to relate to her daughter. We hope that our unconditional acceptance is a factor in enabling her to recover from a disastrous relationship and that we can help her to be the best mother for her daughter that she can be.