John Cheek breaks the silence and dares to speak about domestic abuse.

You are not alone

Years ago, I worked for the second largest government department in the country. My desk could be found in the largest building in Essex. As a new recruit, I sat opposite my training officer, 'Christine' (not her real name). Christine was tall, attractive, middle-aged and clearly had 'lived a bit'. She certainly wasn't the sort of person you would want to mess with. I got the feeling that she could sort out anyone, whether physically or verbally.

It was quite a surprise therefore, to discover that Christine was planning on moving out of the home which she had lived in, with the man she had been with, for several years - and that she was having to do so, secretly. It transpired that the man, middle-aged and often aggressive, had been subjecting her to regular episodes of "unreasonable behaviour". It had come to a head at a family BBQ, to which they had been invited, where her partner had punched another man, a friend of the hosts, simply "for looking at him in a certain way."

Christine began planning her 'escape' afterwards, discreetly moving some of her things to her sister's home, claiming that there was more space for them there; before the final day came where, with him out at work, she took a day's leave, moved out with the help of her family and left a note behind. What was almost as shocking as anything, was that Christine was the least person whom you'd expect to be a victim of domestic abuse. "But it happened to me. It can happen to anyone."

"Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time. We all do things at times, which we regret and which cause unhappiness to those we care about. But if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it's an indication of domestic abuse," advises Irene Taylor of Crossing Point, a Christian response to domestic abuse which offers both advice and practical assistance to victims.

But domestic abuse is rarely mentioned in church, is it? It's even less-likely to be the subject for any teaching or guidance from the pulpit. From experience, Crossing Point fear that many church leaders (of all denominations) are reluctant to acknowledge that the problem exists even in society, let alone the church. They offer guidance and training to leaders who often have previously wanted to bury their heads in the sand, over the issue. Crossing Point are invited to schools in Liverpool and give presentations in assemblies. The responses they observe from pupils, suggests that sadly, domestic abuse appears to be as prevalent as ever. It can be perpetrated by anyone: the old stereotype of the husband beating his wife is the tip of the ice-berg. It can be woman-on-man, uncle-upon-niece, grandchild-on-grandparent; domestic abuse is no respecter of persons. It is the 'hidden secret'; be it in church, or in the workplace. You don't know what the person sitting next to you is going through. If this is you, remember: you are not alone.

You are not alone

Let's break the silence - abuse is not just confined to physical violence or sexual abuse. Neglect is a very common form, particularly when the victim is a child or a vulnerable adult. Financial abuse is theft by another name and a crime leaving the victim not only cheated out of money which was rightly there's, but often leaves them saddled with heavy debts. Forced-marriage, incest and female genital mutilation are also forms of domestic abuse; often justified for cultural or religious reasons against the victims.

Perhaps an often invisible and overlooked form is emotional and psychological abuse. The use of power and control, mind-games and personal criticism, slowly erodes the confidence of the victim; therefore destroying their self-esteem and self-worth and leading to a dependency upon the perpetrator for all areas of life. If we claim to believe in a just-God, and follow the Jesus who claims to be the truth, as well as the way and the life, we need to take a stand against such crimes. The first, important step is to acknowledge that it can and does exist. Is it happening in your home, your wider-family, your church-family? Is it happening to you?

In the beginning, "God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over the every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.' So God created humankind in his image". Note that God doesn't say that human beings should be allowed dominion over one another. The scripture doesn't say that any human nationality, gender, or skin-colour has dominion over another. On the contrary, we are meant to live in harmony with each other, in the image of God-in-relationship within the God-head. Anything less violates this sacred image, as well as violating human beings made in His likeness and died for, by Jesus. Are we prepared to stand-by and allow it to continue? Break the silence: let's talk about this issue - in our homes, our schools, our work-places and yes, let's not shy away from this sensitive, emotional issue in the pulpit, either.

If you feel that you are a victim, please remember the words which Irene constantly emphasises: you are not alone.

On average, two women are killed each week in the UK, in a domestic context. Crossing Point provide a free, confidential service to men, women and young people, using Independent Domestic Violence Advisors, along with trained volunteers. They can be contacted at or please ring 0151 378 9517 - all enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence. Please do not leave these details lying around at home, if you are a victim. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.