For Ministers & Clergy
Your position offers you a unique opportunity to know and witness families regularly and at close hand and to recognise families in your congregation that may be dealing with conflict.
With some education on the subject you may be able to accurately identify DV families attending your church.
How you encourage the victim in this family to feel safe enough to come and talk to you is probably best left to your discretion, but obviously you should not air your suspicions outright and simply make it clear that you are there if they need help.
If someone in your congregation does disclose to you that their partner is behaving in an aggressive or passive aggression manner at home, there are many things that you can do to help improve their marriage and children’s home life and emotional and physical well being.
DV can only continue if the perpetrator has no fear of being discovered and feels that they are more influential than their partner. You have an opportunity (unique to your position in the victim’s life) to quickly expand this person’s network of influence and social contacts and help right this imbalance.
1. Offer to contact the DV officer at your local police station for them, or introduce them to any well educated and understanding police or community service workers you know, making a point of finding and getting to know these people in advance.
2. Offer volunteered or paid work in your church that will lift the victim’s profile and standing amongst their peers while extending their network of friends and support people. Victims are likely to be intelligent and capable people, when given an opportunity.
3. In the case of a victim who is a woman, let some of the older (and wiser) women in your congregation know that her husband is not always showing the same kindness to his family in private as in public and see if these women might drop over now and then for a pre-arranged cup of coffee or tea and chat with her.
4. Offer support with addiction counselling that you feel the victim might benefit from if they are leaning on alcohol, cigarettes, prescription or non-prescription drugs. The victim overcoming these addictions will put them in a stronger position to deal with the abuse.
5. See if you can arrange another church member who is an accountant or works in a bank to help them get their finances sorted out and protected.
6. Give sermons about humility, arrogance and hypocrisy that help bring these issues more into the open with your congregation.
7. In whatever way possible encourage and praise the abusers smaller and more solid contributions to their family and community rather than their bigger and flashier ones. Praise and encourage their parenting skills, patience and role as a devoted husband or wife, etc., and try to steer them away from leading the choir or acting in roles of authority that may encourage their ego and detract from family life.
8. Give sermons on point 7. In a world which will often tell men they should be going for the flashy car or PhD, men need praise for being good husbands and fathers. Helping with housework, their children’s homework, helping their wives balance their finances, etc., are all jobs men tend not to get enough praise for in our society. I am privileged in my work to see how men will light up and glow when these the smaller and often unpaid roles they take on at home are respected and valued more in public discussion. The relief you may notice when the pressure is removed to achieve unrealistic fame and success in the outer world, coupled with the satisfaction in being acknowledged to be able to offer tangible and solid assistance at home, is sometimes quite overwhelming.
9. Parent the perpetrator. If the chance arises to tell the abuser that you disapprove of their treatment of their family, do so, but make it clear they are not being abandoned or ex-communicated. Don’t be too interested in their side of the story. You are not a marriage counsellor and you don’t want to get that deeply involved. Just focus on the fact that their partner is feeling intimidated. The abuser is an exceptionally skilled liar in these circumstances so be ready to hold your ground. Who is right or wrong is not the issue. The fact that their partner feels intimidated and disrespected is the issue.
Look and see if there is someone in this person’s life who might be expecting too much of them and praising them for the wrong things (this may even be their partner). If you can, talk with this person about your concerns. I have many times needed to represent my husband Steve’s better interests in this way, with social workers and careers advisors who when they see his natural charm, want to pump him up to be a big success story in their own career as advisors. In this case it is often quite easy for someone else to step in and politely suggest that perhaps he (or she) is better off concentrating on their home duties and parenting skills and that success and praise for this role is what is now required.
If you hold enough sway with the perpetrator, get them involved in some parent training or similar. If so, be certain the instructor is highly qualified and is of the same sex and has a higher social status, income, etc., than their student. Someone who can do some fill-in parenting and mentoring would be ideal. Whatever the study course, make sure they are given no special treatment and made to finish every step. More than anything, most perpetrators have lacked proper guidance from a parental figure who they felt they could trust (and was too smart for them to manipulate). They have often given up faith anyone is truly worthy of their respect, so whoever attempts this role must be solid, no nonsense, and committed. In my experience NPD men (in particular) just soak up attention and direction from an older man. The older man in this case should have a committed and solid relationship with their own wife and kids if the same outcome is to be hoped for with his charge.
10. Assess the suitability of their job. Steve was a bartender and there was no way our home life could have improved with him working in that job. Perhaps you are able to suggest or find someone who might offer something more appropriate than their current occupation. Be sure to find out their partner’s feelings about your ideas first. People with NPD tend to get very carried away with their work and what ever they do needs to fit in with and be consistent with their families needs.