Domestic Violence Disclosure

Susan M. explains why she did not go to the Leading Brothers in the Assembly for help in her situation of domestic violence. It is a very telling description of Assembly functioning.

Several brothers from the SB Assembly called me this past week to apologize because they said they didn't notice anything was wrong while Tom and I were in fellowship. (i.e., they were unaware of the physical abuse). And my reply was gracious to them, because I suffered in silence while examining myself (as I was instructed to via Betty's counsel), and I did not specifically go to them with my complaints- they didn't know the dynamics in my home and did not witness what was going on. I can honestly say that I have no hard feelings toward any of them personally. But, had they seen my bruises and confronted Tom, I am not confident that the outcome would have been positive for me or our marriage for the following reasons.

1. I may have been blamed by the brothers and/or Tom for being a bad wife and deserving to be harshly disciplined. It is one thing to disagree with your spouse about your relationship patterns; quite another thing to let the dirty laundry out of the closet and risk being ganged up on by people who spoke as God's authority over you and your family.

2. The universal Assembly prescription for these types of personal problems was more Bible reading, shallow admonitions to just trust the Lord and to obey the advice of the leaders. No matter that some of them advising had unhealthy marriages and disfunctional situations themselves- or on the childrearing issues- they weren't even married and didn't even have their own kids! But of course, they were authorities on the subject because they had been trained by George and Betty as their "surrogate children", etc.

3. "Brother, get your home in order or you can't be a doorkeeper... " Throughout the years I heard Leading Brothers brag about how they had put their wives in their places, or they were condenscending when they spoke of the women, "Oh, you know, sisters are more emotional and more easily deceived.... remember Eve. You've got to be strong and lay down the law." and, "Sister, you need to be completely obedient Your resistance shows a rebellious spirit. When you married, you gave up the right to (fill in the blank)."

3. The prohibition against seeing psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health counselors outside the fellowship not only prevented common sense and legal rights from entering the picture, but the hurting couple was left to their own attempts to fix the problem (with the counsel of the leadership prescribing the solution).

4. The code of silence makes it unsafe for both men and women to tell the truth. All churches and organizations have this dilemma. It is human nature to avoid embarassment and to downplay our wrong actions), but the way people are confronted in the Assembly made it especially hard to "come clean." Would you be kicked out? Publically ostracized? Have privileges taken away? Lose your chance to move up the leadership ladder? Have to endure more lectures about how bad a Christian you were, how you weren't overcoming, how you weren't capable of making decisions for yourself, etc.? And if you were a wife, would you have to do your "consequences" and your husbands if he told you to, even if he was in the wrong? No wonder both men and women were afraid to speak up; the culture of the assembly propogated this insidious problem.

The issue of how far to get involved in one another's lives, especially when relationships seem to exhibit unhealthy symptoms, is a complex and difficult one. We could start by "speaking the truth in love", and there are many other Bible verses that would give us wisdom and boundaries to follow.

What is clear is that the leadership's practice of playing Holy Spirit in other's lives is in direct opposition to the way Jesus exposed and treated sins. If the only prayer and effort made on my behalf was to exhort me to conform to the "assembly's standard", I do not feel individually respected, "heard" or for that matter, loved.

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