Joy Forrest – Expert Contributor
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Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

Warning: For adult audiences only. We advise listener and reader discretion.

Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

Ann Maree
Last time on the Safe to Hope podcast I spoke with Anna for the final time and asked her questions about her relationship with God during the darkest times. Today I’m talking with Expert Contributor, Joy Forrest, who has much she can add to that conversation. Joy is the founder and Executive Director of Called to Peace ministries. She is author of Called to Peace: A Survivor’s Guide to Finding Peace and Healing after Domestic Abuse and the Called to Peace: Companion Workbook. Joy holds an MA in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has been active in counseling ministry since 2005. She has been an advocate for victims of abuse since 1997, and held the position of Community Educator with a local domestic violence agency in the early 2000s. Welcome to the podcast Joy.

Joy
Thank you, Ann Maree. I’m happy to be here.

Ann Maree
And we’re happy to have you and hear your voice. For our audience. By way of reminder, on the Safe to Hope podcast, the names have been changed in order to protect those associated with their stories. The Help[H]er ministry exists to help people in crisis and to train people-helpers. So integrity is one of our concerns. To the best of our ability, we have sought to honor the privacy and dignity of those who share their precious stories with us. Before we begin, I’d like to share with our audience that there might be some things discussed that can be triggering. If you’re a victim or survivor, we want to just let you know that Anna’s story might be hard to hear as we interact with it. Maybe find a trusted friend to sit with or someone you can talk to and process after you’ve heard her experience. Also, some of what we talked about in Anna’s story could be considered more appropriate for adult audiences. So we advise listener and reader discretion. Joy before we begin, maybe tell us something about yourself that might help the audience get to know you and your journey into counseling and your advocacy a little bit better.

Joy
Um, well, if if the audience is unfamiliar with me, I got into this work around 1997, after having lived through domestic abuse. I had dated my ex husband for eight years before we got married. And we were married for 15 years before I got out for good and didn’t believe in divorce at all. So I was just trying to save my life at that point it had become so deadly. But the thing that really got me was that as I was trying to get help, and I was really just trying to save the marriage, there were there was really nobody that I reached out to who understood what was going on. And this has been close to 30 years ago at this point. So but but just the the lack of resources was overwhelming to me. And I thought, Lord, your church needs to do something this I mean, you’re we’re supposed to be the salt and light. And what I was seeing is that the church didn’t know what to do with it. It was not just the church, but the church often handled it terribly. And so as the Lord, well actually, I told the Lord, as I was getting out, Lord, if You helped me survive this, I will help other women in these situations. And He kind of helped me to it because women just started coming into my, you know, into my life who needed help. And so, the way I got a job at a local domestic violence shelter was by helping one of them. The church had told her that they were going to work with her. And then one of the family members of the husband called and talked to the pastor and told them this isn’t really abuse, it’s not happening. And so even though the pastor told her on Sunday that the church was there with her and they would support her. On Monday, he called and said, We can’t do that. We just don’t know who’s telling the truth. In this situation. These cases are just too hard to deal with. Now you do what you think is right but the church is bowing out. And then he told the family member where she was staying. So her angry, very angry husband showed up at my house, because that’s where she was staying in, which was not good advocacy, by the way. Anyway, all of that to say, I took her to the shelter; told them my story. And that ended up leading to a job that I wasn’t looking for. But the Lord used that job, I watched Christian women walking into that shelter telling non Christian shelter members, well, my, my pastor says, I can’t leave, my pastor says I need to submit to this and I’m going, Oh, But Lord, this is such a bad witness to the world. We’re not taking care of the weak in the needy, like it says in Scripture. So over time, I just really developed a fire and a passion to do something, to make a difference and to show God’s heart to these women who were facing so many, it seems like blockade. And so in 2004, God really, very clearly, called me to seminary. I signed up for a counseling class, I didn’t even know what biblical counseling was, or that the seminary had biblical counseling, I had grown up with a dad who practiced Freudian psychology. So I was in for a shock. But it didn’t surprise me. And it didn’t overwhelm me, because Scripture is what really had brought my own healing. And so God put me in that. And then He plugged me into a counseling program at a local church, and I kept seeing, are we just missing it here, were missing it. And it was not for lack of trying, it was just for lack of knowledge. And so over the years, I have, I have learned, I mean, even coming out of domestic violence and trying to reach back and help, I didn’t know how to help very well, it’s an issue that requires real knowledge, expert knowledge, or, you know, wise wisdom, it requires wisdom, extra wisdom, people do perish for a lack of knowledge. And so that’s what we’re trying to do at Called to Peace ministries is give the knowledge that brings freedom and healing. And we provide advocacy, meaning support for those who are going through domestic abuse and coming out of it. And then we provide support groups that are Scripture-based based on the Called to Peace: Companion Workbook, and book and then now we have a church partnership program that we go in, and we help churches understand the dynamics of abuse. So we have a training for churches, and we partner with them and help them work cases of abuse. So it’s come a long way, way more further than I thought. And I probably answered way more than I needed upfront.

Ann Maree
No, not at all. No. I’m always thankful when I hear your story, even for somebody that has heard it before, it’s just a reminder, when I’m listening again, that you know, these patterns at you could be speaking for just about anybody’s story. We all have the same kind of pattern involved. You know, the church is responding poorly. Women are being believed, you know, just, you know, a plethora of things that you keep saying that reminds us Yeah. We can we can identify abuse by these patterns. And we can identify poor responses by the church from these patterns as well. But I’ve always sat in awe of just how your ministry has just exploded. And so thank you, for all the work that you do. And thank you to all the volunteers and workers at Called the Peace too.

Joy
Amen. Yeah, we have, I don’t know, scores, I wouldn’t want I would say hundreds, because I think that we have had hundreds, I don’t know that we have hundreds actively. But the advocates that we provide are, are basically people who have gone through our one-year advocacy training, and they volunteer. So most of the advocates we provide are in faith-based advocates, we provide or, you know, basically volunteer, and they’re not on our payrolls, there’s no way we could afford to do this. And then I’m very excited the church partnership program. We have two pastors on staff and then several other pastors who volunteer with us who go in and help work these cases with other with churches and I have seen so much change in the way that church is responding, at least the churches that are reaching out to us. I’m so encouraged, I told them, I did a training out in Tacoma a few months back and I stood up there and I saw we had 60 Some people signed up and over 100 showed up and these are pastors and church leaders. And I said this is better than any Christmas morning gift that I can ever get. It was beautiful. And not only are they showing up, but they’re getting it and you can you’d like a light bulb turning on as we’re doing the training. And I’ve had so many pull me aside at the break and say everybody needs to hear this. We’re like, yes. So I think that we somehow managed to come up with a training that helps people recognize it pretty easily. And to help them do no harm, because in a four hour period, there’s no way that we’re going to be able to teach them how to deal with the intricacies of domestic abuse. And so it’s been just a beautiful journey to watch what God is doing in His church.

Ann Maree
And I want to just emphasize here, your training for advocates, that’s the training I got. And after taking it, I had previously gotten my MDiv, and I value my training as an advocate just as much if not more, I thought that was something that was really important to my my trek, as well. And also, I’ve experienced at least one little and protect the flock and would agree that they are very powerful in the church, so I commend them to our audience.

Joy
Yeah, sure. Thank you.

Ann Maree
Yeah, no need to thank me. I mean, it’s helping people for sure. But anyway, let’s, let’s take a little turn here and talk a little bit about our story with Anna and I’d like to hear your thoughts, especially in regards to some of the things that happened in her life. But um, you know, neither of us are the age of purity culture, and I’m not gonna give away our ages, but we are seasoned. But I think our daughters, I know, my daughters were impacted by it. I don’t know about yours. But can you relate some of that kind of purity messages that Anna received at all from your youth? Like thinking back before your abusive marriage? Was there any messages that you heard similar? That you could speak to?

Joy
Yeah, I’m sorry, I’m getting a little froggy here. I will say that even even back in my day, which was like the 1970s growing up. Definitely, I mean, we were taught we were taught Scripture, and even the the idea of Scripture and I will say this, in my my case, and in many cases of the women that I’ve worked with, a lot of times as Christians, if you basically had sex before marriage or outside of marriage, in your mind, a lot of them would say, Oh, well, I’m we’re married now spiritually. So then you thought you could not break up with this person who even though they were showing all sorts of toxic behavior, you could be thought, well, I now I’m married to him spiritually, because I have had sex with him. So that was probably more how it played out in our generation. And, sadly, I bought into it big time from in my girls. I just remember, Oh, my goodness, I had this. I’m walking down the beach one day, when my kids were teenagers, and I’m looking for shells, and all of them were broken. And I wanted to use that analogy to talk to them about how you would be just not whole anymore if you gave away your virginity to somebody else. I mean, so a lot of times that message, especially to people who’ve been sexually abused, it’s telling them they’re less than because you know that virginity is actually more important than holiness, interior, you know, inside. And so yes, I’ve seen the impacts of that I feel really bad about the way I taught it. Thankfully, I didn’t tell them that particular analogy isn’t just been something that you would think it’s it’s a good thing. I mean, surely we do want to be pure, we want to be pure of heart, first of all, and then, you know, our relationship with God, I think that somewhere along the line, we will move from, you know, our relationship and being His child to doing and more so, it’s all about what we do. You know, we don’t do this. We don’t do that. So we’ve, we’ve slipped back into legalism, and under the law, instead of walking through a walking out the law of love, which is which is totally based on relationship, a love relationship with God, with Jesus. When we’re not doing things with a motivation of love than it really doesn’t mean anything.

Ann Maree
Yeah. And so says that in the Bible, though, right.

Joy
Around 1 Corinthians 13. So yeah, I mean, and so that’s what I see. And I mean, I got caught up in that in many ways over the years. I think we all do. I mean, it’s just easier to focus on behavior than on your heart attitude. So yeah.

Ann Maree
I mean, you’re saying it, as you’re saying, you’re answering this question, I think. Yeah, it was kind of purity culture was in seed form all along. It’s it wasn’t a new teaching. It was more codified, if you will, but yeah, I remember distinctly friends who had sex before marriage were not allowed to wear a white dress, you know, and also talking about that that brokenness and that analogy that you’re using with the seashells. I know, I’ve heard something similar, at least when my daughters were being when they were raised in the youth groups that they were a part of. So Joy, can you tell me what are some of the ways you most often hear women find hope?

Joy
I would say, finding out truth. You know, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. I hate to say it, though, but sometimes the truth is very, very hard when you’re coming out of abuse. And for me, it was admitting that what my husband was doing was not loving that, that it didn’t even equate to love at all based on the description of love. And First Corinthians 13:4-7. So but we have to recognize the ugly truth before we can embrace God’s beautiful truth. And so, you know, recognizing what we have veiled and we’ve, we’ve lied to ourselves about is probably the first thing. And then education to help them clarify what has happened to them. So a lot of times, you know, people coming through the support group, when they see what we call the patterns, you were talking about patterns. Domestic violence is not a single incident where somebody got mad and blew up and threw something or hit somebody, even. Domestic abuse, it has more to do with this power-over dynamic where somebody is actually being oppressed in their homes. And so for them to understand what is happening to them is wrong. When I was going through it, after about a year of reaching out, I called Focus on the Family. And they sent me they sent us information on a ministry called Lifeskills International, which was actually a pastor who had been abusive to his wife named Paul Hegstrom. And I went out, we went out to Omaha, Nebraska, and did a week-long training with them. And he used some resources that had come out of the Duluth model in Duluth, Minnesota, but they were the only domestic abuse or domestic violence program in the nation probably, one of the few. And they had a tool called the power and control wheel. And so that power and control wheel just talks about the different aspects of domestic violence. And I was surprised and shocked to see that most of it was not physical abuse, it was control. It was things that things like using the children against her as weapons against the wife, or using male privilege, economic abuse, minimum, minimizing denial, and blame and all of those things. When I looked at that power and control wheel, I was just in shock, I actually started crying because I had told myself for all those years, I had actually gone to get a protective order, and had told the judge that my relationship that our marriage had not been an abusive marriage. And when I saw that, I thought, Oh, my goodness, it’s been abuse since day one, because he was controlling me in so many ways. And so understanding what’s happening to them, it’s so important. And and I think it’s really important for victims of abuse to be believed. And I’ve seen that and this is something I’ve seen, sadly, as a biblical counselor, I’ve seen that from a lot of biblical counselors, where, when they’re told when they’ve told their stories, they’ve been asked things like, “Well, what did you do to cause that?” Not in that maybe not in those words, but that’s the implication. So being heard and believed, not minimized, I think is so important for them to understand, to start to understand and to find hope, again, because many of the women that I’ve worked with over the years, and I mean, this point is 1000s of them, were not believed when they went to get help. So believing, having someone believed them is huge, to give them hope, to validate what they’ve been through and say, “Look, I know that was hard, that is not God’s will for anyone to be treated that way that is not God’s heart for you”. And then, after they’ve gone through abuse, usually what I find is that most women who’ve been through domestic abuse or any kind of abuse really will find that their view of God has become warped. We start thinking God’s unfair. I did. I thought, you know, God loves. I thought He loved marriage more than He loved me. Because I would quote, “God hates divorce” to myself so much that I stayed until I almost got killed. And then, so getting their view of God corrected and then their view of themselves, they don’t know who they are as daughters of the King. So knowing God’s goodness was such a big deal for me when I was coming out. And it has been from most of the women that I’ve worked with His goodness gives us hope. And it can turn things around in such a big way. But when we have forgotten His goodness, we have to be reintroduced to it.

Ann Maree
That was good. I’m thinking a lot about the believing the victim. And I’m even drawing like out more conclusions in my mind about what does that mean? What does that look like? And it’s encompasses so much more than just belief or believing her story or believing the abuse. And it comes down to trusting her that she’s a valid witness that she can speak up about her circumstances. And, you know, innocent until proven guilty. Well, I can trust her until there’s evidence otherwise, right. But I really appreciate you adding and including the thoughts about the warped view of God and ourselves, and we come into life as daughters. That’s our primary role. If you want to talk about roles, that’s the first one. And so yeah, just knowing God in truth, and knowing Him from His word, rather than the twisted ways that we may have learned about Him.

Joy
And I, I was gonna say to our view of ourselves is often formed by when we, when we’re married, our spouse has a huge say in our life. And so our view of ourselves becomes based on what a man has said about us instead of what God has said about us. And that is huge. We have to come to know who God says we are. And so that is a huge source of hope, when we really start to grasp that truth.

Ann Maree
Yeah. And good lead into this next question, too. I think there’s connection here. But Anna said this, but also when we had Sheila Gregoire on she spoke about, she spoke often. And she writes about it in her book about the importance of a healthy self-worth or self-esteem. What are your thoughts about that? And what do you see as it relates to the women who come to you in the ministry?

Joy
Thank you. Well, that’s a great question. As a biblical counselor, you know, we were we ran from that word, and I understand why we ran from it. I mean, I grew up with the psychology of the 70s. And everybody gets a trophy, and everybody’s wonderful all the time. There’s no, there’s no, you know, responsibility for your own actions sometimes. And so even with my ex husband, he went to this psychiatrist, one time he went to church pastors and Christian counselors, and he went to the secular psych, Psych, yeah, psychiatrist, actually. And in the psychiatrists head, he had me come in one time to tell me that I needed to boost my husband’s self-esteem, because he had had, he had the lowest self-esteem of anybody you’ve ever met. And I thought, well, that’s a Well, that’s all I do. I mean, I had learned that psychology very well. And I was boosting him and telling him how great he was all the time. And it wasn’t helping, because it can lead to some self-centeredness. And so it’s like feeding a monster sometimes. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. And I know it’s new. I actually interviewed Sheila too. And I and I, I saw that in her new book. And I was like, Oh, I hate she’s using that terminology. But we know that when people go through abuse of any kind, it warps their view of themselves, their identity becomes connected to the abuse that they’ve gone through, it becomes connected to everything, but the Lord who made them and who treasures them. And they have no idea that they’re treasured. I mean, some of the things that I’ve heard from women who’ve grown up under religious systems, has blown my mind that they don’t have any clue of His goodness, and they have no clue of their value and worth. I heard somebody say the other day, and I thought, you know, sometimes with the gospel, we have, we’ve actually made people feel like they’re, they’re worthless. And I remember even hearing this in seminary a couple of times, when my old my grandson is born, I’m just going to tell him what a little sinner he is, and almost like he’s a worthless sinner, you know. And so I thought with the Gospel we have, we can use the gospel for great good or great harm. And this man says, you know, nobody pays $200,000 for a beat up old piece of junk, you know, instead, but we’ve had the highest price paid for us. So that means that we must be pretty valuable. God created us with intrinsic worth in His image. And so, you know, that’s what we’re talking about, but it gets so damaged by abuse. I can’t. I mean, I just can’t stress it enough. I have seen women especially women who’ve had very severe childhood sexual abuse, and they carry so much shame. They don’t know their worth. They don’t know their value they have. They blame themselves for the abuse that happened. So it’s a big deal. You know, knowing who you are. You can’t really ever overcome until you know who you are. And being His daughter like a daughter of the king of precious child of God. versus you are the reason all these bad things happen, you are a piece of scum. And I mean, I’ve seen some that, you know, really struggle with suicidality because of that. I don’t even need to be here, I don’t deserve to be on this earth. I’ve, I’ve seen people who truly have that kind of mentality. And so we can’t ignore that we have to understand that abuse, really damages people’s view of themselves, whether we want to call it their identity in Christ that gets totally veiled and squished squishing down, I don’t know what other word to use, or, you know, whatever we want to call it. Their their view of themselves is completely damaged, and it needs to be corrected, along with their view of God, the two go together, if once we know His goodness, and we know Him, and we have this loving relationship with Him. A lot of times I think shame is and all these things are based in fear. And you know how it says in 1 John, “perfect love casts out fear”. And for me, that was huge, because I think I had so much fear all my life. And I finally realized, Oh, I know He’s got me if I know He cares that much for me, I don’t have to be afraid, because He’s got me versus, you know, whatever else I tried to do to make myself unafraid. It didn’t work. But knowing that I was loved, truly loved. When I really got a hold of His grasp the concept of His great love for me, it made a huge difference in me and knowing who I am.

Ann Maree
And you’re so right too about that connection being so close between God’s image and who we are misrepresentation of either defiles both. So when woman isn’t as represented as unworthy, and especially hears that over and over God is also misrepresented because we’re made in His image. So yeah, thank you for clarifying all that. Anna had some, I asked her these questions, she didn’t come up with them. You know, she didn’t say, “Oh, I need some, I need to give some advice to leaders”. But I asked her what she would tell them and she said some really good things. And I’m going to play one of the clips from what she said, as far as giving advice to leaders. Let me play that for you. And then I have a question.

Anna
I also know that God names those who are harmed, and includes their stories in Scripture. And He declares over and over again, how much He hates abuse in Scripture, I feel like if you actually look for it, you’ll see it everywhere. And He also talks about how much He longs to see people restored. And I believe when we tell our stories, we’re shining a light on to God’s true heart. He wants to rescue us ultimately from our sin. But He also wants us to live in the reality that we’re beloved. I think it’s nothing short of a miracle how God takes something so devastating, like abuse, and transforms it into the ability to bestow comfort to others.

Ann Maree
Joy, I know Called the Peace has a lot of volunteers who are themselves victims, but now survivors, what does it mean for the healing process when they engage in sharing the comfort they’ve been given?

Joy
That is a great question. I it’s a huge part of the healing process, I do believe. Well, actually, we talked about it a little bit before we started this interview, that stories, sharing stories can be very healing. And we talked about how much Jesus used parables and stories in His teaching. And so I believe there’s power to and telling our own story. And maybe because of what we talked about earlier, the truth will set you free, and to be able to share that truth. However, what I find is that they really have to be at a place of healing enough to tell it so it just brings deeper levels of healing. To me, they’re going to not be able to share that story until they’ve gone through a certain amount of healing. And for me, I believe that being able to forgive their abuser is a huge part of that. A lot of times I’ll have women say, “Oh, I’ve forgiven my, my husband, I’ve forgiven my ex” or whatever. And yet they well up with tears every time and for me, I’ve noticed it when I have asked them like, “Hey, you be worked through the healing. I mean, the forgiveness process yet?” And they may say something, yes, but they they can’t even tell me what they’ve forgiven when you can’t name what’s happened to you again, part of the healing processes, to be able to name what happened to call it what it was and then cast all of that onto the Lord. So once they’ve gone through that process where they’ve learned to release the hurt to God, then I really believe that move, reaching back and helping others and comforting the others with the comfort that we’ve received is a huge part of the healing process. It helps them move forward, stronger, so many of the women, and that’s what I love about this ministry, actually, that so many women who have gone through abuse are reaching back as advocates and helping other women out of it. And so we have to be really careful with them, like we teach them. The you can’t tell people what to do, you can’t direct them. You can’t let your past experience influence the way that you’re helping them. And so it is, it’s a very, it’s very much a healing process because they have to learn what healthy looks like, because when we come out of abuse, I came out of it. The Lord did a great amount of healing in my life. And yet, I still had to learn what healthy was. So again, it’s just even dealing with people. So that’s part of it as well. But yes, I think that it’s just a huge help when we can reach back and help other people. It does help us heal, helps us be stronger. And it helped because we’re sharing God’s love in His truth. And we’re just walking in it the way He wants us to walk. Right, as we’re called to do exactly what they’re doing, you know, it says rescue the weak and needy. Right. Maybe too.

Ann Maree
Yeah, very important part. And I’m thankful you brought up the forgiveness aspect as a survivor, because I know, that’s a that’s a hard truth to hear. And I would encourage our audience to get some good resources on what forgiveness is and what it’s not. Brad Hambrick talked about his book on forgiveness when he was on the podcast.

Joy
I have a whole chapter in the workbook, because it was one of those that actually really tripped me up for the longest time because I thought that forgiveness equaled reconciliation, thought that it meant that I had to trust again, and it doesn’t mean any of those things. So when you understand what it truly is, it’s a whole lot easier to, to let go. And so, but it was probably one of the most powerful parts of my healing process, it was the part that took the sting out of it, that where I could actually talk about what happened without it upsetting me anymore. For the longest time, it was just like somebody stabbed me in the knife in the stomach with a knife. Anytime I tried to talk about it, and I couldn’t talk about it without a lot of pain. And so once again, once they’ve gotten to that point, that they’ve been able to let go of that, you know, the holding on to the things that have happened to them, and they haven’t released it when they’ve been able to let that go. We see they are way more powerful and being able to minister to others.

Ann Maree
That’s good. Yeah, thank you. So go back to your younger Joy. And what would you tell a young woman to look for when choosing their husband? Or not to look for?

Joy
Oh, there’s so many things. Well, when we there are a lot of common warning signs that we see with abuse, one of them is jealousy, control. They are you safe to be who you are? Or are they okay? When you say you don’t want to do something? Do they respect that? So I would tell them, is there reciprocity in the relationship? Are you treated like you are just as valuable as he is? Or does he seem to want more privilege in the relationship? Does he have respect for you? When you say no does have patience, or is he one that is pushing? One thing we see in these kinds of relationships is that they will push for some kind of commitment, they’ll start talking about marriage early on. So all of those things, and I tell people looking at First Corinthians 13:4-7 is a great description of love. And it’s also a great description if you negative make it negative. It is a great descriptive description of what abuse looks like. It’s impatient, it’s not kind, it does insist on its own way. And so going through that the those passages and seeing if you’re seeing those kinds of traits in your boyfriend or even girlfriend, you want to probably not pursue that relationship. So.

Ann Maree
That’s actually how I do some data gathering for a woman who’s not quite sure what’s going on in her relationship is to use that passage in First Corinthians and do that do the opposite. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up, too. I know we talked a little bit about the resources that Called the Peace has, and you can expand on that. But tell me some of your like go-tos for leaders who want to better respond to abuse, trauma or victims and sufferers in their churches, what are some of the resources?

Joy
Well, this is one of the things we do with our church partnership team. And I’m and I love it. So we often will recommend that churches get advocates in their own congregation trained, so find to mature, it usually is Christian women, but there are men who have taken our advocacy training as well. And so you want to have advocates available, please do invite our church partnership team in. We have, we can set up a program with your church so that we can help you work cases of abuse, we can even help you create a plan, and even a team if you want one. What we’re finding is that a lot of times, it is a big undertaking to develop a domestic violence response team in a church. So we we don’t, we don’t take that lightly. That’s not something you would want to jump jump right into. But it’s a great idea to at least have somebody from the outside that you can talk to when you’re dealing with these cases of abuse, no two are the same. I love what our friend Chris Moles says, “If you’ve seen one case of domestic abuse, you’ve seen one case of domestic abuse”, because they’re not the same. And it takes a village really to respond to these situations well, and you want to have people as part of that community who really have an in depth understanding of abuse, not just a little bit of training, and who have experience. I’ve been doing this now for 26, 27 years. And I still have to ask other people, what do you think this is just so complex, so making sure that you have support and that you are humble enough to be willing to ask for the help. That’s one of the things I’ve seen in churches that I think is probably very dangerous for victims is when a church gets a little bit of training and says, Okay, we’re ready to go now. And we can handle it all in house. Because I can’t handle it all in house. And we need to be humble enough to realize that we need help with this very, very tricky and sticky issue. There are other resources out there, you got Chris Moles, his Peaceworks University and his, he does the Men of  Peace training. I just love his training for people who want to try to help work with the perpetrators. We do the advocacy training. And that is really it’s aimed more at helping survivors. And then Beth Broom’s, The Christian Trauma Healing Network is a great resource as well. So there are a lot of more and more resources that are coming up and out these days. They’re not all equally effective, but there are a lot of them. And I think that most of the ones that are in the biblical counseling world are I love Darby Strickland stuff. And I love her book Is It Abuse? because for years, I had to recommend a secular book Why Does He Do That? to people to read, but it was so it was full of it still is full of cursing because he was quoting abusers. But it was the best book to show those more subtle dynamics of abuse. And yet Darby did an amazing job of explaining that. So really just getting educated, people do perish for lack of knowledge. I can’t say it enough. And so making sure that you have availed yourself to resources like that will make a big difference for the lives of those in your congregation who are being impacted by abuse.

Ann Maree
All good suggestions. And I want to also just echo the team approach that Chris talks about all the time, Chris Moles, and how important that is. Because yes, we are only as good as we are with each other. Right? I agree. The more I’m involved, the more I hear the more stories I hear the less I feel confident about being by myself in this ministry. So Joy, what can we encourage for women who struggle to to get back into church after experiencing that secondary trauma? So if they’ve had a poor response to their abuse and the church has harmed them and in any way what can we encourage those women with practices or alternative alternative ideas or what what things come to your mind?

Joy
And this is something we can’t just dismiss. I’ve had churches that you’ve got send it back to the church, but a lot of times women who’ve been through abuse and then had their church side with their abuser, and that didn’t just happen once, it might have happened multiple times, are afraid to walk back into a church. I remember we had a one of our first conferences we had was in a church and this woman walked into the church for our conference. And she was shaking all over it, she said, this is the first time I’ve been into a church since I left my husband. And then she proceeded to tell me that the story of the hurt from the church. And they they feel more hurt from the church not getting them than their husband’s abuse, a lot of times. So it takes time. And so I think one, one thing to know is that we absolutely cannot rush them, we can’t force it. We can’t put too much pressure on somebody who’s been through that. But what we can do is, first of all, if we are believers, we show them that that did not represent who God wants is that we, we are the hands and feet of Jesus to them. And we say not all Christians are that way, we can encourage them in that way. But we have to, it has to begin their time, you know, on their time, not ours. And so we can encourage them to have community with other believers, at the very least, if they’re not ready to go back into a church yet. Our faith based support groups, I think, are a good place to start that. We have retreats that we have every year for survivors of abuse in the mountains of North Carolina. And so many of them have said how healing it was because they forgot what it was like to be in the fellowship of other believers, but because they were so afraid. So it has, it actually helps give them the courage to go back. Because we do encourage that. And that’s one of the reasons too we’re doing the church partnership program is so that we can say, Look, this church has gotten educated, they’re trying to get it right. And so we can encourage them to go in the direction of people who are humbly getting the training and willing to work with folks so that they don’t miss it. Not all churches miss it. And I’m so encouraged that more and more are getting it right these days. So, you know, we can help them to know what to look for, then what how can you recognize a church that’s going to be safe and helpful? I mean, honestly, I feel like that. I mean, it’s it’s the minority of churches, it’s not the majority at all. But I feel like that a lot of times, abusers will thrive in certain churches, because maybe the leadership’s got some abusive tendencies, right? And so we want to help them to be able to recognize those kinds of things so that they don’t find themselves in another bad situation. But we definitely, I mean, in our ministry, we encourage them to be in the fellowship of believers, because I mean, we’re called to that. And there’s no support like that. That’s why we’re partnering with churches, because we can’t be the church for people. We don’t want to be the church for people. We want churches to rise up, we just want to help equip the churches to respond well.

Ann Maree
So Anna talked about something that was just so hard for me to hear for her to experience for sure. And I’m kind of thinking the audience for them to hear too. And I’m just going to play what she said. And then I’m going to ask you a question about that as well. Hang on.

Anna
Yeah, I know what it is to wish for God to take my life so that I could be removed from abuse. I know what it is to be betrayed by the person that is supposed to love you the most. And I know what it is to have a death like loss where there is no funeral. I think though, over time, God transforms our stories of abuse, into hope, into compassion and into the ability to bear witness to the suffering of others. And I have seen this happen in my life, albeit imperfectly on my part. But every time this happens, I’m really stunned by by God’s grace.

Ann Maree
So Joy, what would you say to the woman who’s listening today who may like Anna be asking God to take her life?

Joy
Well, first of all, I I certainly have been there. I remember thinking one time, there’s no way out unless one of us dies. And I actually sat and contemplated it. But because I had children, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. So yes, we get that hopeless. That is what severe oppression will do to a person because you lose your hope. It it seems like that your abuser has become omnipotent in your life. And so I understand that fully. But the good news is that we have a God who didn’t just sit up in heaven and watch our pain and suffering, He came down. And He entered into it Himself. And so you know my story. In right after getting out of the abuse for the final time my, my husband took, started chopping up and burning all this antique furniture that I had I had inherited from my grandmother. And then he took every personal item that I owned, and he took it to the town dumpster, he told my mother and so I actually had some men who accompanied me, they were husbands of friends of mine, and I was having to climb down into a dumpster to retrieve all my worldly possessions and poured ink all over my clothes, he had put everything there were all my shoes, I could only find one of each one because they’d gone down, there was a lot of garbage in that dumpster. And then, and I’m telling this story, because this was like when the Lord showed me just how much He enters into your pain. While I was down there trying to retrieve things I was opening bags, and some of them had garbage and dirty diapers, rotten food, and some of them had my clothes and I’m passing it up and to the man, and all of a sudden, I hear tires screeching and my husband had returned and he was screaming at the men not to help me I was, I had climbed down in there and I had a flashlight because it was starting to get dark outside and, and so I just turned off my flashlight and prayed that he wouldn’t find me. And so he threw a lamp and miss my head, and he threw this bag of clothes. And I landed like, down in the garbage, like I’m there with rotten food, dirty diapers. And I’m thinking, Lord, nobody knows what I’m going through right now, nobody has ever been through this before. Like, I was the only one in the world who’d ever experienced that. And it was like, just a moment where heaven came down to earth, it came down to that dumpster. And I felt Jesus saying, “I know what it’s like, I know what it’s like to be betrayed by someone I love. I know what it’s like, you know, to, to be abused”, He knew He didn’t. And He didn’t just know it, but He chose it. And I would have never chosen to be there. So knowing His love in that moment was what gave me hope that He gave me the hope to hang on, I knew if He loved me that much that He would choose His suffering, so that He could enter into mind not just to redeem my soul, but to know what it is that we suffered down here. I knew if He loved me that much, then I could trust Him, I could hold on to Him. And that’s basically what I did. I held on for months. And there were years that I continued to suffer my circumstances did not improve that much. But knowing that He was there; that He loved me. And He would give me glimpses of like glimpses of hope along the way. And it was just holding on to Him. It says in Jeremiah, that we hold on to Him like a waistband. I think it’s more like supposed to be underwear in the Hebrew, but holding on to Him. Women that I have worked with who hold on to Him to choose to trust Him, them to believe Him. They always at some point, they they overcome, I have seen Him, you know, part of the seas for these women, when they finally realized I can hold on to Him, I can trust Him. I don’t, I don’t have to be overwhelmed fully by my circumstances, because I have a God who was bigger than my circumstances.

Ann Maree
And again, I always appreciate hearing your story, because there’s so much hope in it. And like I said, your name is so appropriate. You’ve had joy in the midst of those awful circumstances. I mean, you’re in the garbage can, so how much worse can it get, right? But I want to say to our audience as well, that leaning on someone else’s hope, if you can’t find your own is also another way to endure. And so that’s why I go going back to the question about going to church when we can’t even make ourselves get into a church building. Those those relationships, the community, the kingdom of God that we can surround ourselves with, and we can lean on somebody else’s hope for a time and I know, in advocacy. That’s a lot of what we do. I know that’s the passion of many of the advocates that you’ve changed is just to be there to bear witness and to hear and to be a part of their story. So I’m so appreciative of you being with us. I am grateful with the wisdom that you share always and want to hear more. But that’s going to be all for today. So, thanks for joining us, Joy.

Joy
You’re welcome. I’m so grateful for you and your work. And yeah, I just so appreciate your heart for those who are experiencing crises like abuse, and you have an amazing ministry. Ann Maree, I’m grateful for you.

Ann Maree
Right back at you. Okay, so like I said, that will be all we’re going to discuss for today. But I know, this, again, has been a really heavy season of domestic abuse, sexual assault kind of discussion. So please, today, just remember to take care of yourself well. Our audience, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again for next season. It will be a little bit of a shift in topic, we’re going to focus a little bit more on trauma and church responses to trauma, but we’re going from the angle of a mom who’s going to share her experience with foster care, and what she had hoped for and looked for in her home church and what was lacking. So this series is meant to help church leaders learn, I guess more about how to respond specifically to these foster care parents. There’s so many of them in our churches now. But also how to care for their traumatized children that are living in their homes and coming to your churches. So we’ll be anxious to hear from that mom.

If you want to know more about the dynamics of domestic abuse, again, I keep telling everyone go to Joy’s website go to Called to Peace.org. There are so many resources on that website for you.

And then as Joy and I both say, Darby Darby Strickland’s book Is It Abuse? is excellent, and it’s good for both victims and church leaders for identifying the patterns of abuse.

In addition, Dr. Jeremy Pierre and Dr. Greg Wilson’s book When Home Hurts is particularly helpful for church leaders.

And there’s a new book, Joy, when is that coming out?

Joy
It comes out in September, I believe this year. And it’s New Growth. Caring for Families Caught in Domestic Abuse: A Guide toward Protection, Refuge, and Hope. Chris Moles is the editor. Darby Strickland and I have well, we we share a chapter and then I have a chapter on I think I’ve got a part of three chapters. Greg Wilson has several chapters in there. Kirsten Christianson and Beth Broom are also in there. So we’re looking forward to that. I think it’s going to be a great resource for churches.

Ann Maree
Yep. Thank you for reminding us and September 2023. We’ll be looking for that. And I know Darby has a new book for children about being traumatized. Something Scary Happened or something like that. I’ll get it into the the notes accurately.

Safe to Hope is a production of Help[H]er. Our Executive Producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written and mixed by Ann Maree and edited by Ann Maree and Helen Weigt. Music is Waterfall and is licensed by Pixabay. We hope you enjoyed this episode in the Safe To Hope podcast series.

Safe To Hope is one of the resources offered through the ministry of Help[H]er, a 501C3 that provides training, resources, and the people necessary in order for the church to shepherd women well. Your donations make it possible for Help[H]er to serve women and churches as they navigate crises. All donations are tax-deductible. If you’d be interested in partnering with this ministry, go to help her resources.com and click the donate link in the menu. If you’d like more information or would like to speak to someone about ministry goals, or advocacy needs, go to help her resources.com That’s help her resources.com

We value and respect conversations with all our guests. Opinions, viewpoints, and convictions may differ so we encourage our listeners to practice discernment. As well. guests do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of HelpHer. It is our hope that this podcast is a platform for hearing and learning rather than causing division or strife.

Please note, abuse situations have common patterns of behavior, responses, and environments. Any familiarity construed by the listener is of their own opinion and interpretation. Our podcast does not accuse individuals or organizations.

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