On Supporting an Abused Woman (Bancroft)

This is a book you should have on your shelves if you need a helpful resource on abuse: Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. Specifically, this is a book that discusses the various aspects of abusive men. For example, it goes into the abuser’s mentality, the different types of abusive men, his patterns, addiction, and so on. I’ve mentioned this book here before so I won’t go into details. I just wanted to put it on your radar again in case you need a reading recommendation on this topic.

To be sure, this isn’t a Christian book and I certainly don’t agree with all of it. I also realize that women can sometimes dominate relationships by resorting to manipulation, passive-aggressive behavior, and so on, making people’s lives absolutely miserable. However, in my experience and studies, it is quite true that abusers are often men. This is a huge and difficult topic with various aspects to look at and to discuss. Back to the book, Why Does He Do That?. Here is Bancroft’s advice for helping an abused woman (friend, daughter, sister, etc.). I’ve edited it for length. I’ve also added my own comments at the end.

If you would like to make a significant difference in the life of an abused woman you care about, keep the following principle fresh in your mind: Your goal is to be the complete opposite of what the abuser is.

The Abuser: Pressures her severely.
So You Should: Be patient. Remember that it takes time for an abused woman to sort out her confusion and figure out how to handle her situation. It isn’t helpful for her to try to follow your time table…. You need to respect her judgment.

The Abuser: Talks down to her.
So You Should: Address her as an equal. Avoid all traces of condescension or superior knowledge in your voice. If you speak to an abused woman as if you are smarter or wiser than she is…then you inadvertently confirm exactly what the abuser has been telling her, which is that she is beneath him.

The Abuser: Thinks he knows what is good for her better than she does.
So You Should: Treat her as the expert on her own life. Don’t assume that you know what she needs to do. …Ask her what she thinks might work, don’t pressure her, and do respect her explanations….

The Abuser: Dominates conversations.
So You Should: Listen more and talk less. …Talking too much inadvertently communicates to her that your thoughts are more important than hers, which is exactly how the abuser treats her.

The Abuser: Believes he has the right to control her life.
So You Should: Respect her right to self-determination. She is entitled to make decisions that are not exactly what you would choose….

The Abuser: Assumes he understands her children and their needs better than she does.
So You Should: Assume that she is a competent, caring mother. Remember there is no simple way to determine what is best for the children of an abused woman.

The Abuser: Thinks for her.
So You Should: Think with her. Don’t assume the role of teacher or rescuer. Instead, join forces with her as a respectful and equal team member.

As with all counseling situations and discussions, there are differences of opinions because of the differing circumstances. Most counseling advice is not a “one size fits all” sort of thing. Furthermore, I would say that the goal in an abuse situation is not what Bancroft says it is (to be the complete opposite of the abuser). Rather, the goal in counseling should be to glorify God by trusting his word, obeying it, helping those in need, and showing love in ways the Word calls us to do. In other words, the above advice for helping the victim of abuse is good common grace advice worth thinking through. But we also need to think biblically as we lovingly help those who are hurting from the dark evil of abuse.

The above edited quotes are from chapter 15 of Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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