I have a friend at church who confided in me that her husband is sometimes violent. What should I do?
I am so thankful your friend felt you were someone she could confide in. It takes a great deal of courage to seek out help from a friend or loved one during a difficult and painful experience such as domestic violence. The fact that she spoke to you shows the importance of being a person who demonstrates the love of Christ by walking alongside those in need.
Domestic violence includes any type of physical, sexual, or psychological harm caused by a spouse or partner. The range of this type of violence can occur from a one-time incident or long-term chronic abuse from months to years. Sadly, domestic violence has affected at least 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 7 men in the United States (see “Violence Prevention” on the CDC website).
Domestic violence often occurs in secret and is hidden from others. I often think of the story of Hagar, the servant of Sarah, and the mother of Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael. Hagar suffered alone and endured an abusive situation (Gen. 16:1–16; 21:9–21). For Hagar, the Lord sends an angel to care for her while she was in the desert. Hagar, who had suffered for so long, experienced God’s care. “You are the God who sees me,” she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen. 16:13).
Our response to domestic violence should be one of compassion, care, support, modeling Christ’s love for those in need of help, support, and resources (Gal. 6:10; 2 Cor. 1:4; Eph. 6:22; 1 Thess. 5:11). If you are a family member or friend of the one in need, here are a few ways to support. First, encourage the person who is in an unsafe situation, such as domestic violence, to get to safety.
Second, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788 or a local community hotline. If your church has counseling or lay counseling ministry, seek out support for the individual or family in crisis. In a dangerous domestic violence situation, call the police if the individual in crisis cannot reach the police or needs immediate help.