Published by Kregel Publications on August 17, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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God's love is steadfast for survivors who chose to leave an abusive marriage but still suffer the aftershocks
When someone leaves an abusive marriage, life isn't instantly fixed. Women who have experienced domestic violence feel shattered. Because of the trauma they've been through, a bond with their abuser has formed that keeps them tied together long after they've physically left.
Karen DeArmond Gardner understands these difficulties all too well. She tackled all the same struggles when she left her own abusive marriage. And she intimately knows what women in this situation need in order to gain freedom from the lies of abuse-to be reborn as the people God longs for them to be.
Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse isn't a how-to book with a few easy steps. Instead, it's a biblically based map for a long journey to healing. By recounting her own history--as well as the faithfulness of God when she was willing to follow His direction--Karen helps readers: - discover there is life beyond abuse - recognize God's relentless pursuit of their heart - gain courage to release the trauma of their past - regain life, hope, and wholeness in Jesus's healing love
Gardner's inside perspective, strong voice, and incredible, vulnerable story of deliverance from the bonds of abuse allow readers to find themselves in her words and feel heard at last. She puts hope back in their hands, with the assurance that God loves them deeply and wants them to know they aren't defined by their trauma, their past, or their brokenness.
As many as one in four women and one in nine men are victims of domestic violence. In all likelihood, you either know someone who has been abused or have experienced it yourself. And unfortunately, Christian teaching has often sided with the abuser. In some strains of faith, patriarchal authority condones domestic violence, or at least provides the abused no way out. Even in less extreme strains, the stigma of divorce or creating a “broken family” often keeps the abused with their abusers. It’s a real problem. Karen DeArmond Gardner knows. She spent decades in an abusive relationship, was counseled by spiritual figures to remain with her abuser, and only after leaving was able to find the healing she needed. Now, in Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse, she reaches out to other survivors to guide them through what comes next.
Gardner divides the book into four parts: victim, survivor, overcomer, and conqueror. Each section shows a sequential step on the journey toward healing, acknowledging that it’s a long and difficult path from beginning to end. She is honest about her own abusive situation, vulnerably sharing her experience to walk alongside readers in solidarity to show them they aren’t alone.
Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse begins with the self-identification of “victim.” Some may balk at this at a bit. Survivor? Overcomer? Sure. Victim doesn’t sound very empowering. But Gardner starts here because you have to begin with an acknowledgment and understanding of the abuse. Gardner lays out what abuse looks like and what behaviors are red flags for abuse. She tells a lot of her own story here, being honest about why she stayed so long and the factors that made her reach a breaking point.
The second part is survivor, and surviving is exactly what the next steps feel like. Leaving abuse meant facing her abuser while setting up a new life. Because abusers often isolate their spouses and make them feel inadequate, many abuse victims have great difficulty mentally and emotionally taking the next steps. In this part, Gardner says the one sentence that defines the book: God loves you more than he hates divorce. Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse dismantles the false equivalency that God hating divorce means it shouldn’t happen. (She doesn’t mention this, but the verse in Micah that says “God hates divorce” likely says nothing of the sort, but that’s a different topic.) God does hate divorce. As do many of the divorced. He hates what has caused a relationship to break; he hates the abuse that has made divorce necessary. That’s such a freeing message to so many who may either feel guilt and shame over a divorce or who feel like they can’t leave or get out.
The next parts, overcomer and conqueror, continue he journey forward into wholeness, hopefulness, and healing. These sections move into chronic care, preparing readers for settling into the new life that they now have free from abuse. Leaving is just the beginning. There’s so much that comes after and Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse is a clear and comforting guide all the way through.
Gardner closes the book with a series of short chapters meant to answer specific questions or concerns. She directly addresses the issue of the church and abuse. She talks about how to develop new, healthy relationships. One chapter is titled “Eight Questions You Don’t Have to Answer,” letting victims know that they don’t owe their story to anyone. My only criticism of the book is that it only addresses women to the point that domestic abuse could be perceived as only affecting women or that women are incapable of being abusers. Obviously, Gardner’s experience is as a woman, but simply changing some pronouns or gender descriptions would have included the one in nine men who have experienced domestic violence as well. It’s a small criticism to some extent, but a rather big one as well. In any case, Hope for Healing from Domestic Abuse is a book that should be in your church libraries and on your bookshelves. More people than you know need to hear this message, and it’s a message the Karen Gardner shares with both vulnerability and strength.