Are evangelicals responding effectively to abused women?

Lonnie Collins Pratt initially was attracted to him because of his strong faith. They married young and attended a charismatic Bible school together. Her husband became a pastor/evangelist and accepted a church position. Their ministry and marriage seemed normal enough, although they did move a dozen times in 14 years.

If they stayed in one place for too long, people began to notice her black eyes and the bruises on her arms and legs. Then they began to ask questions.

Pratt suffered regular beatings from her husband throughout their marriage. The same man who preached from the pulpit slowly isolated her from her family and convinced her that she was worthless. Even though people began to notice the abuse, few knew how to respond. Pratt believed it was her responsibility to make her husband stop, and it was essential to preserve their marriage.

“I really believed that to end the marriage was to end any relationship with God,” says Pratt. When she did seek help from the church, however, Pratt says she did not receive it.

“At one point I had a miscarriage because I had been beaten so badly,” says Pratt. “I went to [another] pastor … who said, ‘Go home and don’t make him do this. How do you make him so angry?’ ”

Pratt finally left her husband when she was diagnosed with cancer and her husband refused to allow her to seek medical treatment. “What he really wanted was for me to die. I decided that even if I had to go against his God, I would live to raise my daughters.”

Abuse in the Christian home

Although Pratt’s story is an extreme example of domestic violence, cases like hers are not uncommon. A 1988 estimate by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports ...

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