By Bob Smietana
Investigating claims of domestic violence can backfire for churches, said radio host and speaker Autumn Miles, who partnered with Lifeway Research on a study about churches and domestic violence.
Miles, a past victim of domestic abuse, said it’s difficult for victims to come forward and ask a church for help. And when they do, they often need immediate assistance. They can’t wait for a church to do an investigation before deciding to help.
Miles said churches sometimes confuse ministry with church discipline when it comes to domestic violence. Their first response should be to help, she said.
“If a woman comes forward and says, ‘I need help—I am being abused,’ a church needs to respond,” she said. “There’s a lot to lose if churches get this wrong.”
One of the best ways to help, Miles said, is for churches to have a plan in place. That way they don’t have to scramble to figure out a response.
When Miles first came to leaders at her church about the domestic violence she experienced, she said they were caught off guard.
Church leaders had a hard time believing her claims were true, she said—in part because they didn’t think domestic violence could happen in the church. But domestic violence can happen anywhere, she said.
“If you have more than three people in your church—this is a possibility for you,” she said.
BOB SMIETANA (Bob.Smietana@Lifeway.com) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.