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Dear Friend: Be the safe space

consoling console holding hands comfort
EyeEm via Getty/ Chanintorn Vanichsawangphan

This is part 3 of an oped series on abuse within the church body. Read part 1 here and part 2 here

Dear friend,

There are times in life where you desperately need to be the safe space for someone else. This is never truer than when someone you know is in an abusive relationship. The Christian walk is never easy and to carry another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) is even harder, and yet we must do this for one another.

Believe them. When someone confides they are being abused, believe them!  It is incredibly rare for someone to alleged abuse unless they are truly being abused.  You might hear a story that is quite unbelievable and yet true, which is common as typically the abuser has consistently crafted a narrative and persona of a wonderfully charming person. Believing someone can open a door to their freedom and healing when you create a safe space by listening and hearing with your heart and not just your ears.

Often the abused "tests the waters" to gauge your reaction. Make sure you are ready to open the door. You might be the one and only person someone is willing to step towards, so listen and be open to hearing them and welcome them in. You might be the only observable safe space they can find. You see abuse operates in silence and isolation; you might be the key to unlock this for someone.

Offer to help. I know we cannot all go "full-on" with opening our homes, giving funds, finding jobs, steering towards professional help, but if you can, then do! Do whatever you can and whenever you can to help. And if it has been a bit of time since the person connected with you, then close the gap and reconnect. Sometimes just the offer of a listening ear is so helpful. Friend, you have the power to be the strength for someone who cannot find their own strength; the hope for someone who has lost all hope; and the safe space for someone who is not safe.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and there are far too much silence and pain in victims who hide in the shadow of life and seek a way out (1 out of every 3 women and 1 out of every 4 men have experienced intimate partner violence). Dear friend, you might be the one to open the door for someone’s ultimate freedom from abuse. In fact, you might be the only door a person will knock on. Be that safe space.

Kathleen Patterson, Ph.D. is a professor at the School of Business & Leadership, Regent University, and serves on the board of CareNet.

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