Ruth’s husband abused her – but her church did nothing to help
I met Ruth in 2006 when I visited Zimbabwe to scope out a project for Tearfund. I had just finished speaking to a group from her church when she approached me and asked to speak to me in private.
Ruth was perhaps thirty five, but even in the half light of the mud hut that was her home, she looked much older. Hesitantly, she told me her story - how her Christian husband had been abusing her throughout their marriage. She’d endured years and years of pain and suffering. It was awful, heart wrenching stuff.
The only other person she had told was her church pastor. 'And what did he say?' I asked.
She replied, 'He said I should pray more, submit more and stop nagging my husband. But I’ve done all of that and he's still not changed.' Ruth looked at me expectantly, hopefully. 'So you're the expert - what more should I do?'
It was all I could do not to cry. What could I possibly say to this poor woman who had suffered so much?
I told her that it was her husband that needed to change, that God saw her suffering and was angry about it, and that she should try and keep herself safe. But I knew that Ruth would continue to suffer. Because where could she turn to for help, if not her church? And her church was doing nothing to help her at all.
Later, I raged at God. ‘How long will you let men get away with this? How long will you let this happen?’
God threw a challenge back at me: 'How long will YOU let this happen?'
I was startled. I protested, 'But who am I to try and deal with this issue in the global church?'
God countered, 'And who are you NOT to try?'
1 in 3 women worldwide are abused by their partners, like Ruth was. The church, so often a powerful force for social justice, is doing far too little to end violence against women. And many Christian men seem to believe that masculinity equates to power and control – a far cry from the masculinity modelled by Jesus.
So Peter Grant and I co-founded Restored in order to break the silence, to challenge churches and the men within them to think and behave differently. The task is huge - yet things ARE changing for the better.
And I’m overjoyed that we’re partnering with a charity in Zimbabwe to train church leaders about violence against women, what the Bible really says about relationships and masculinity, how to challenge men that perpetrate abuse, and how to support women who experience it. And before they leave the course, those church leaders draw up plans to put their training into action as soon as they return home.
I hope that Ruth might be one of the women who benefit.
Will you make a regular gift to Restored, so we can help many more women like Ruth? Thank you so much - we are truly grateful for your support.
Help support more women like Ruth
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If you feel that you might be in an abusive situation, help is on hand. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or speak to Refuge using their online chat function. You can also get in touch with our Survivors' Network - we're not an emergency service or helpline, but we can stand alongside you as you access the support you need.