About the author


Joy Harris

Joy studied elementary education before going on to teach at the primary school level as well as homeschooling for twenty-six years. Joy has touched the lives of thousands through her ministry in state Religious Education, Sunday Schools, and Holiday Bible Clubs as well as through her speaking at various seminars and retreats. Joy is also a gifted musician and has collaborated on multiple recording projects as well as maintaining a private teaching studio for over thirty years. Joy currently does missions support spreading her time between Uganda, Vanuatu, and her home in Australia. Joy has seven children and twenty grandchildren. You can contact Joy at


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    sorry — the 3rd footnote goes at the end of the paragraph titled “Loyalty”.

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    Lou Ann Keiser

    MUCH needed. We need a balanced approach to this and guidelines for people who counsel women. Thank you for this series, Joy. I am looking forward to the other parts of it. I don’t know if you are tackling self abuse as well–cutting, hanging, anorexia, etc.?

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    Self-harm is a different issue, though it can be a symptom of hidden abuse that is or has occurred. A symptom – not the root cause. Thanks for the encouragement!

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    Anita Brady

    I was once part of a church which abused women. The elders blamed women for everything that went wrong in the marriage. They would accuse the wives of not obeying their husbands or the elders or both. They would create a situation where the ‘offending partner’ would be forced out of the marriage through a war of attrition (cutting off and isolating and refusing them access to any support from anyone including their family members). Eventually when this person was ousted from the church and finally divorced, the elders would make sure any children stayed in the church (they were not always successful at this since the courts are not stupid) and the spouse who had stayed would remarry always to somebody approved by the elders.

    The women who have survived such trauma have been devastated. All the arguments you hear from christians about women staying within abusive relationships are also applied to voicing your concerns or your story about abuse from elders. Chrisians are supposed to just forgive and love their abuser whether they are leaders or husbands, or both.

    Many have come out of this church and some with their families intact (physically), but many have been wrenched from their families and had their marriages destroyed, and not a few husbands have been the perpetrators or enablers of the abuse which is also encouraged by the elders.

    People ask why christians stay in these situations, and the answers are the same as the ones you have given. Abuse is not always easy to spot, which sounds stupid, but is true. And in church situations, people equate leaving the church with leaving God. Women are forced to believe lies about themselves and told by pastors, not just from within the church but from other churches, that they must have done something to deserve the abuse.

    This is a huge subject, but one which needs to be discussed more widely within the christian community. So few christians in mainstream churches are even aware of abuse within christian families and worse within christian churches.

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    Anita, thank you for sharing your sad story and your correct assessment of it. The spiritual abuse – using God’s own Word to get and maintain control – must make Him just weep.

    Forgiveness, as I understand it at this point, is handing the right to get vengeance over to God. “Vengance is mine. I WILL repay.”

    Forgiveness is breaking out of my prison of bitterness and stolen joy.

    Forgiveness is a command that is easier to obey when I remember that I, too, am a sinner and Christ forgives ME. (Ephesians 4:32)

    Forgiveness does NOT equal a restored relationship, especially when there is no genuine repentance and a life-pattern of sin.

    Forgiveness does not equal continuing to enable sin.

    Forgiveness does not negate the law of reaping what you sow.

    Forgiveness does not restore shattered trust.

    My prayer is that more people will become aware of what abuse looks like and learn what to do about it.


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