Full Transcript of Episode 8: Domestic Violence Part 2. Interview with host of The Autumn Miles Show
Lizette: Podcasting from Nashville, Tennessee, this is Keep Asking, the weekly podcast that helps you dive in a bit deeper and wider into the research providing insights into today’s church and culture.
In today’s podcast of Keep Asking, we have an interview with Autumn Miles, one of the sponsors, or she’s the sponsor, right?
Scott: The sponsor.
Lizette: [The sponsor for some research we did on domestic violence. We had the chance to interview Autumn and hear a little bit about her story, and her passion. That’s what we’ll be focusing on today.
Scott: I think you’ll find that it helps bring some of the data that we’ve shared in a previous episode, brings it to life to get the context of this ministry today.
Lizette: [01:02] It’s important stuff. I can’t say, “I hope you enjoy,” but I hope we can learn and make some progress in this area. Thank you.[01:11] [music]
Scott: [01:11] All right, Lizette, why don’t you start us off here?
Lizette: [01:19] Autumn, I’m interested in where you got interested or your passion for helping churches and victims of domestic violence make this connection. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Autumn Miles: [01:34] Yes. I went through a marriage where I was abused. In that marriage ‑‑ in my first marriage ‑‑ I got married when I was 18 to my husband. He was my high school sweetheart. He was abusing me mentally and verbally while we were dating, but I married him.[02:03] Once we got married, things took a big change for the worst. A lot of other types of abuse was introduced. Finally, after three years of me dealing with this silently, because that’s what abuse victims do, they suffer very silently. [02:29] My dad was a pastor of a church, and didn’t feel like I could go to him because of what I had heard about divorce. Like, “You cannot divorce your husband no matter what. You stay with him.” I didn’t feel like I could open up and tell my dad ‑‑ even my dad, my pastor dad ‑‑ about the abusive situation I was living in. [02:55] One day, I believed I was going to be killed, or I was going to kill myself, because I couldn’t live in the situation any longer. I told my parents, and we took it to the church. The church did not handle it well. They sided on the side of, “Divorce for no reason, no matter what,” and didn’t support me. [03:21] I found myself being abused and my church forsaking me at the same time. That’s why I’m interested in this, because I was this. I lived this. I lived a church, dealing with this very unhealthily, because churches don’t know how to do deal with it sometimes. That’s where my passion comes from.
Lizette: [03:46] Do you hear that similar story from other victims of domestic violence that you speak with?
Autumn: [03:53] Every day. I hear it all the time. They message me on my fan page. I’ll speak at an event, and they will come up to me. They will say, “I am being abused, but I feel like you’re the only one I can tell, because my church has said I cannot get a divorce, so I’m telling you.”[04:18] Here I am, a complete stranger. It’s amazing how domestic violence victims, there is something about a complete stranger that is much more comforting sometimes in their own home church. That’s very important to understand. [04:33] Domestic violence, there’s a lot of brainwashing that takes place. “If you tell your parents, I’ll kill you. If you tell our church, I’ll kill our kids. You’ll never see our kids again.” There’s a lot of brainwashing. There’s a lot of threats. [04:52] Sometimes a perfect stranger is a domestic violence victim’s best friend. I am telling you, I have heard this so many times, which is another reason why I wanted to do this study, and really see what are churches doing, because we have to strengthen this area in our precious churches.
Lizette: [05:17] I’m hoping that you occasionally do hear good stories, where people, when they go to the church, it’s a positive outcome? Is there anything that stands out about those experiences or anything that makes those churches really different, what they’re doing, or how they’re handling it?
Autumn: [05:36] Of course, I do hear good stories. I think there are some awesome churches out there that really do come alongside of victims and support their women. Honestly, it’s about equal. I hear about 50 percent good and about 50 percent bad.[06:00] Like I said before, this is another reason why I wanted to the study, because there are some incredible churches out there, but there is some work we need to do in this area.
Lizette: [06:15] Just from the stories you hear, what is it about the churches that are coming alongside them that seems to be making the difference? Is it even from little things, safe things? What are the examples or the characteristics of the churches that are helpful, versus those that have been maybe damaging or isolating?
Autumn: [06:39] The characteristics of the churches that are helpful are those that understand the grace of God. There is almost a righteous anger that someone would mistreat a child of God. Those are those churches that are incredible.[07:00] As a matter of fact, I’m talking through a situation right now with someone I know. They’re dealing with this in their church. Rather than the church outing the victim, the church has surrounded this particular victim because they understand how much support this victim needs during this time. [07:27] I couldn’t help but think a couple weeks ago, when I was having this conversation with this particular church, how they are getting it right. Yes, surround these women and men with the love of Christ and the grace of God, because that’s what they need during this time. [07:48] I see just a very righteous anger going on in the churches that are getting it right. They understand. They are believing the victim. I think that’s one thing that’s very important for churches to do. If a woman comes to you ‑‑ or a man, because men are abused as well ‑‑ if they come to you, and they say, “Listen, I am in a domestic violence situation right now,” they are believing that they are. [08:17] Then they are doing the investigation. I believe that these situations need to be investigated by the church, by the authorities. You have to believe the victim first. I’ve seen a trend happen where a woman will come forward and say, “I’m being abused,” and the leadership doesn’t believe her. [08:41] They send her back into an abusive situation where things get worse because her abuser knows she outed him. In these churches that are doing it right, they’re believing the victims. They’re surrounding the victims with support, with counseling, with a safe place to stay. [09:05] I left my ex‑husband with one suitcase with a couple of outfits in it and some shampoo and conditioner. They are providing these women with something as practical as little toiletries. They’re really supporting these victims. That is what they are doing right.
Lizette: [09:26] Is that what prompted the questions on having a plan? Scott, you have some of that. It was important to you to know, if they have a plan, if they’ve thought it through. That’s what I’m gathering by looking at the questions you asked.
Autumn: [09:43] It was very important. First of all, I wanted to know how many churches thought that they were safe haven. From the study, we found out that a very high number of them believe that they are a safe haven.
Lizette: [11:23] Do you get the impression that, just from your experience, the churches that don’t have a plan don’t have procedures in place? Is it a denial of how prevalent the situation actually is?
Autumn: [11:38] I really do think it’s mainly just they just don’t know. God bless them. Our churches are doing so much for the world, but I just don’t think they understand that domestic violence does not necessarily look like a woman that has a huge black eye.[11:59] Domestic violence looks like me. I look totally normal. When I was in my previous marriage, I looked totally normal. You would absolutely never know I was being abused because you are taught to hide it. You are taught to protect your abuser because that’s what he tells you you have to do. That’s how you are trained in these situations. [12:26] Churches, I think they just don’t understand. Statistically speaking, one in four women are abused. If you have a church that’s bigger than four people in your audience, this is potentially happening in your congregation. [12:44] I hear about it. I hear about these women that, “Hey, this is happening to me. What do I do?” This week alone, I probably got 10 to 15 messages of women that are being abused, and they don’t know what to do, and they don’t feel like they could go to their churches. This week alone. [13:05] I believe there needs to be a heightened sense of awareness of this problem amongst the leadership of our churches to be able to support these precious women and men in a greater way.
Lizette: [13:20] Say there’s a pastor or some members of a church listening to this, and they realize, “We don’t have that in place.” Are there some resources, some first steps that you would say, “This is what you can do next to get educated, to start preparing.”?
Autumn: [13:39] Absolutely. You can actually go to my website, AutumnMiles.com. We have 10 very easy steps that you can literally follow that will help anyone that comes to you. Any church can follow this. Any person can follow this.[13:59] We have to understand that there is normally a domestic violence shelter in your community. Literally, just linking up and building a relationship with that shelter. Talking to them and saying, “Hey listen, can we refer women here? Can we bring women here?” That is an incredible resource. [14:23] Any Christian counselor, and I think it’s very important that they are Christian, biblically‑based counselors in the area, link up with them. “Hey, here’s a woman. She just came out of this situation. She’s going to need help,” because again, we’re brainwashed, victims are. [14:41] You can encourage a domestic violence victim to call the police, but that is not always going to be what they want to do. As a matter of fact, in my situation, I never called the police because there always going to be a consequence I would pay that would be greater than protecting myself via the police, if that makes sense. [15:07] These victims are told, “If you call the police, I will commit suicide, kill you, hurt our children.” The abuser is protecting themselves. I would recommend, listen, I think we should get the police involved. That might be something that you might just have to say, “I’m going to call the police on your behalf.” [15:28] Help them with a plan to leave. It’s not as easy as just saying, “Go home, get your stuff, and leave.” I wish that every woman would leave the very first time that she is assaulted by her abuser. It’s very important, for the safety of the children, for her safety, and really, even for the safety of the abuser to make a plan. [16:02] Thursday, 9:00 PM, have your stuff packed. Walk out the door with your children. Have a safe zone ready to receive you. Whether that’s a house, whether that’s a shelter, make a plan, and then stick to the plan. Get out. It would be so great if someone in the church that has come through one of these relationships successfully could also mentor the victim. I think mentorship is huge. It’s something I did not have. [16:41] Now, on the other side of this, on the ministry side of this, really just someone saying, “You can get through this. You can thrive after this. God has prepared a future for you. Your life is not over. Let me walk you through some steps that can put you on a really good path to success.” [17:07] A mentorship program, something like that in the church, would be helpful as well. Then I simply also added, “Listen to the victim.” I think it’s so easy, especially in this over‑emotionally charged world, where we read things on social media, and everything is so emotionally charged today, sometimes, I feel like the people that truly are suffering aren’t being heard. [17:40] Simply, if someone comes to you, and you are in any sort of leadership position, listen to what they are saying. There is a possibility that they are overreacting, but there’s also a possibility that they could go home, and face a fight with their abuser. [18:05] Those are some of the things that we included on our website that really, I think would help any church, or organization, or business, for that matter, work their way through this type of a situation.
Lizette: [18:20] Thank you for that. That is challenging, but those are great points to consider. We will link to your site when we post the podcast, and point people towards those resources. Thank you so much for your time, and for your commitment to this. We hope that we hear about churches taking those next steps.
Scott: [18:43] This has been very helpful. I may see you at NRB. I know you’re going to be real busy there, but looking forward to helping you get the word out next week.
Autumn: [18:53] Thanks again, guys. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Links of interests
- More about Autumn Miles
- 10 Steps to Prepare Your Church for Domestic Violence (by Autumn Miles)
- Women Reaching Women in Crisis Book by Chris Adams
- Pastor Tony Evans Speaks Out on Domestic Violence (YouTube)
- The Chat with Priscilla Shirer (Overcoming Domestic Violence) (YouTube)
- Violence in the Home: How Pastors Can Best Help Victims of Domestic Abuse By Justin Holcomb (Christianity Today)
- How Pastors Perceive Domestic Violence by Bob Smietana (Facts & Trends/Christianity Today)
- When Domestic Violence Knocks by Lou Reed (Christianity Today)