I can’t stress enough how important this book is for pastors and elders. We can’t be naive about the presence of domestic abuse in our churches. Darby Strickland has written an expansive treatment of the subject directed to those who want to help. I’m not going to write a full-fledged review, instead I just want to share some of the quotes that I noted as being most helpful or insightful.

When we sit with the oppressed, we need to make ourselves little as well. Our gestures, words, and expressions must be small. An oppressed wife does not need to hear our opinions or to be told what to do. Remember that her oppressor tells her what to do and how to think. We must take a different stance – one of listening to her and restoring her ability to make choices. (p.47)

It can be tempting to look at a victim’s behaviour and attribute her suffering to her own failures. While it is true that there are improvements many victims could make to the way they respond to the abuse they are enduring, this is not what we should focus on when we start working with them, and making such improvements will not stop their abuse. The first thing we need to do is to grasp what is happening to them. Before we move in to offer them words of instruction, we have to know what their world is like. (p.94)

In a church setting, people are often tempted to confront oppressors and to call them to repentance. Do not do this unless the oppressed spouse is comfortable, protected, and prepared. (p.113)

Oppressors can act and even be remorseful. But they are often sorry only for how their actions will affect them. Their pride senses that they have made fools of themselves or that others think they have done something reprehensible. (p.138)

Sadly, I have heard too many stories like this one: A pastor witnesses a husband crying and appearing genuinely remorseful for hurting his wife. The pastor then says, ‘Your husband seemed sincerely sorry and promised that he would not do it again. I do not think you should call the police; it could cost him everything.’ The pastor missed the manipulation and failed to see that the purpose of the apology was to avoid the police and other consequences. (p.139)

Marital rape occurs in 10 to 14 percent of all marriages. These numbers should alarm us. And they should also cause us to ask why, if marital sexual abuse is this prevalent, we do not hear more about it. (p.160)

Consider another counselee of mine. I would talk about the grace that God had for her when she was obsessing over her failings. I thought I was encouraging her until I learned she had been told that ‘grace’ described the way that God tolerated what he hated about her. For her, the idea did not carry any notion of God’s love for her. The word had been so corrupted that I had to find other ways to speak of God’s mercy and love. (pp.222-223)

You may be thinking, ‘Is it okay for an oppressed wife to leave? God hates divorce. Will she be sinning against God if she leaves?’ It is never wrong or sinful to flee danger. Jesus did so, and the apostle Paul repeatedly escaped abusive and dangerous situations. God does not ask vulnerable people to remain in harm’s way if their suffering can be avoided. If we were to step back and look at the whole of Scripture, we would see that God has a heart for the weak and defenceless. (p.288)