BCC Staff Note: In this BCC author interview Q & A, we connected with co-authoring team, Lindsey and Justin Holcomb, to learn more about their new book, Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.
BCC: “Lindsey and Justin, thanks for joining us. Why did you write Is It My Fault?”
LH/JH: “Those suffering domestic violence are in the midst of a whirlwind of emotions and have serious and important questions. Here are some of the most frequent questions we’ve been asked:
- Does the grace of God apply to me?
- What does the Bible say about women?
- What does the Bible say about violence against women?
- What does the Bible say about God delivering victims?
- Does the Bible say I should suffer abuse and violence?
We wrote Is It My Fault? for those suffering domestic violence to answer these questions and to offer accessible, gospel-based help, hope, and healing.”
BCC: “How do you define domestic violence?”
LH/JH: “Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner.
This definition isn’t just our personal preference. It’s the increasing consensus of psychologists, lawmakers, and experts in the field.
Domestic violence can take many forms including willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault, battery, stalking, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic control, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, isolation, any other abusive behavior, and/or threats of such. Of course, threats of abuse can be as frightening as the abuse itself, particularly, when the victim knows the perpetrator may carry out the threats.
Former or current spouses, opposite-sex cohabitating partners, same-sex cohabitating partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and dates can commit domestic violence.
“Intimate partner relationship” is defined as a relationship between two people who may or may not be married, hetero-sexual, homosexual, living together (cohabitating), dating, separated, divorced, or currently in a relationship.”
BCC: “How prevalent is domestic violence?”
LH/JH: “Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening epidemic and crime that affects millions of people worldwide in every community. It takes place across all races, ages, socioeconomic statuses, geographic regions, religions, nationalities, and education backgrounds, including traditional, nontraditional, teen dating, and adult dating relationships as well as older populations.
Intimate partner violence is pervasive in U.S. society. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Nearly three out of four of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
These statistics don’t begin to reveal the darkness and grief experienced by the women themselves.”
BCC: “You make the point that many suffering domestic abuse think it is their fault. What would you say to an abused woman who thinks she is to blame for the abuse she is suffering?”
LH/JH: “It is never your fault.
No matter what kind of abuse you have experienced, there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing you think that makes you deserving of it. There is no mistake you could have made and no sin you could have committed to make you deserving of violence.
You do not deserve this. And it is never your fault.
You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or “getting what you deserve.”
But you are created in the image of God. You should be treated with dignity, love, and respect, but instead you are or were the victim of abuse and violence, and it was wrong. You were sinned against.
God knows and sees your suffering, and that God cares about you and hears your cries and prayers. He cares for you so much that He wants you safe and delivered from threat and violence. If you have children, He wants them safe too. But even beyond physical safety, God wants you to heal from the many ways you’ve been hurt and wounded.
Wherever you are in your experience with abuse—past or present—please understand this: Jesus responds to your pain. Your story does not end with abuse and violence. Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, fear, anger, and confusion. The abuse does not define you or have the last word on your identity. Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story.
In Jesus, the God who delivers us from evil also offers us a path to healing. And it’s time to let this truth transform the shape of your story.”
BCC: “Can you say more about Jesus and those who are oppressed?”
LH/JH: “At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and declared that these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’ (Luke 4:18–19).
In making this declaration and in His ministry, Jesus showed that bringing freedom for captives and relief to the poor and oppressed is at the very center of His divine mission. His ultimate act of liberation was His substitutionary death and victorious resurrection, which set His people free from slavery to sin and death. Yet His teachings and His example show us that the proclamation of the good news of Christ’s saving work should be accompanied by tangible acts of love, service, and mercy toward our neighbors if the gospel message is to be recognized in its full power.”
BCC: “What is the church’s role in responding to domestic violence?”
LH/JH: “As we react to the pain and suffering of women at risk, we should meditate on Jesus’ love and care for women. But God’s love should do more than just make us feel better—it should lead us to imitate His care for children, take action against evil toward the vulnerable, and pray for God’s peace and salvation to cover the earth.
Churches have a great opportunity to offer victims of violence love, safety, patience, and counseling. Caring for and responding to women at risk is an opportunity for Christians to take the gospel to those who are most in need, provide an alternative community centered on Jesus to the marginalized and oppressed, and show the transformative power of the gospel to the watching world. Moreover, responding to the epidemic of violence against women is a way the church can follow the charge of James to practice “pure religion” (James 1:27) by caring for vulnerable women.
If you are a leader in ministry, statistics tell us there are people under your care that have suffered—or are currently suffering—from domestic violence. This is particularly tragic because part of God’s mission for the church is to proclaim God’s healing and to seek justice for everyone it encounters. And our book, Is It My Fault?, is to help equip you in doing just that for women in abusive situations. It is also a resource to give to women being abused as well as their support network of friends and family.”
BCC: “What is the significance of referring to someone who suffers domestic violence as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’?”
LH/JH: “The term ‘victim’ signifies the cruelty and unfairness of domestic violence and puts the responsibility for the assault where it belongs—on the assailant. In our books, Is It My Fault? and Rid of My Disgrace, we use the term ‘victim,’ though ‘survivor’ can also be appropriate as well. Generally, the terms are used interchangeably by people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault and by the professionals who interact with them.
However, there are distinctions. ‘Victim’ is often associated with the early trauma following an experience of domestic violence or sexual assault and emphasizes the fact that frequently a crime has been committed. This term is also used for emergency department responses. The terms ‘survivor’ and ‘victim/survivor’ are most often used within later periods of recovery to reclaim power. ‘Survivor’ is often the chosen word for those who do not want to be viewed as remaining under the perpetrator’s influence and control.
We use the term ‘victim’ rather than ‘survivor’ for two reasons. First, the unfortunate reality is that not all victims are survivors as many victims of domestic abuse are killed. Second, some victims do not feel like survivors and using that term can heap shame on them as if they have failed or done something wrong in the healing process. If someone prefers the term ‘survivor,’ we support them in their chosen identity.”
BCC: “Isn’t it difficult for those in an abusive relationship to see it? If so, what are some signs that someone might be in an abusive relationship?”
LH/JH: “The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is living in fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around him—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blowup—your relationship is unhealthy and likely abusive. Other signs include your partner’s belittling of you, his attempts to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.
An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you. He may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame, and more. What’s more, he is often creative and strategic in when—and how—to put these to their most effective use.
And because he is so good at deceptively wielding control, it can often be difficult to discern if you are being abused. From the perspective of outside observers, these signs of abuse may be cut-and-dried. But for those trapped in the cycles of abuse, making sense of these complicated relational dynamics—especially when the relationship is intimate—can be suffocating and confusing.”
BCC: “Thank you, Lindsey and Justin, for your compassion for women suffering domestic violence, and for introducing our readers to Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.”