Thursday, April 14, 2016

Crisis Counseling for Ministers: Thing to Consider with Cases Involving Domestic Violence and Abuse

I've been working through James D. Berkley's Called into Crisis: The Nine Greatest Challenges of Pastoral Care (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas, TX: Christianity Today; Word Books, 1989). At the end of each chapter is a "Quick Scan" section where a minister can quickly consult some considerations when facing a pastoral crisis. Here are the considerations from the book when a minister is facing situations involving domestic abuse and violence.


Immediate concerns:

1. Be aware of the potential for continued or more severe violence and abuse. The victim’s safety—and your own—are of primary concern

2. A victim should not stay in a situation where violence or abuse threatens. Pleas of “It won’t happen again!” are suspect.

3. Call the police for any violence or abuse in progress, and follow their instructions.

4. Do not promise strict confidentiality. You may not be able to keep the promise, either legally or morally.

Keep in mind:

1. Abused children won’t necessarily expect you to believe them. They may not divulge information harmful to the abusing parent.

2. Small children nearly never make up sexual abuse charges. They cannot make up something about which they know nothing.

3. Spouse abuse is rarely a chosen response. It is a response born in passion and frustration. Self-hatred and poor coping mechanisms often underlie the problem.

4. Spousal sexual abuse is not something an unconsenting spouse must bear. A spouse should not be violated sexually merely because he or she is married to the violator.

5. The presence of genuine guilt doesn’t necessarily indicate the end of a battering problem. Most batterers express remorse when anger subsides; many repeat their behavior.

6. Reporting abuse, as difficult as it is, must be done. Families will need support as they go to the authorities.

Things to do or say:

1. Secure the bodily safety of the victim.

2. Show love, concern, warmth. Remain unshocked by what happened. The victim needs to be able to relate the story without inhibition.

3. Listen for cryptic comments from children. Role playing, using anatomically correct dolls, and having them make crayon drawings are other ways to obtain information.

4. Remove the notion that “Christians never do such things.” All victims need to be believed, even when the accused is a Christian.

5. Help the victim and victimizer find specialized care.

6. Use a tape recorder with the permission of the victim. Tapes may well convince a skeptical parent or other authorities.

7. Report child neglect and abuse to the proper authorities. It’s required by law in most states.

Things not to do or say:

1. Do not assume an innocent parent was unaware of child abuse. Denial is common.

2. Do not castigate the abuser. You may lose the cooperation of the victim, who often loves the abuser anyway.

3. Do not ask a child “Why?” questions. They are not sophisticated enough for analysis of the problem. Stick to finding the facts.

4. Do not underplay the potential for continued or increased violence in domestic fights.

5. Do not reject offhand any report of abuse. Tend toward believing it first, and then seek to validate it.