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Are fundamentalist Christians capable of counseling victims of child abuse?

The Cycle of Abuse is a social theory developed by Lenore Walker to explain the origins of abuse. It basically says that abuse is a learned behavior characterized by certain repetitive actions with abuse (whether it be physical or emotional) usually being preceded by another act of abuse. This theory was developed in the 1970s and, like most revolutionary ideas that go under the name ‘theory’, are quickly trashed by fundamentalists as being not true.

The reality is very few professional psychologists, therapists, and even evangelical Christians, question the reality of the Cycle of Abuse. Those who have questioned it are generally coming from the angle that just because you came from an abusive background does not mean you will become an abusive personality.

Even Lenore Walker admitted that the women used for her studies were not ‘randomly selected’. Her original terms like ‘battered women’s syndrome’ have been replaced by the ‘cycle of abuse’ because abuse is not limited strictly to men abusing women. Both men and women have perpetuated the cycle of abuse.

The reason for contemplating the Cycle of Abuse is because a minority of fundamentalist Christians, who sincerely want to stop abuse, are not only questioning the logic of the Cycle of Abuse but are calling it ’emphatically false’. Just take a look at the thread from Stuff Fundies Like (link below) to read what I’m talking about.

Jeri Massi, the author of Schizophrenic Christianity, participates in the Stuff Fundies Like discussion with, “Definitely, emphatically, not all abusers start out as abused. That’s a myth propagated by criminals who plead victimhood to get leniency in their court trials and sentencing.”

She goes on to say that even children from good homes become abusers. She neglects to give examples or explore whether such abusive children were abused outside the family. If such a child was abused outside the family, and the family knew about the abuse but elected to remain quiet, does that family still qualify as a ‘good family’?

In my critique of Schizophrenic Christianity, I was struck by this passage, “If the stupid child is going to behave as a temptress, he will treat her as a temptress. If she is going to wear those frilly petticoat dresses to church, he will act on the lure she has provided.”

This struck me as a ‘blame the victim’ passage. I’ve posted the review which contains this quote on an earlier blog of Christian School Confidential in 2008 and she has not yet addressed this issue. Was it a misprint? Or, does she really believe that, in some cases, a child can (and should be?) blamed for the abuse ‘the stupid child’ has inflicted upon herself because of her behavior?

I am brought to the conclusion that this might not be a misprint. If she believes that the Cycle of Abuse is a theory seized upon by criminals in order to get leniency, then couldn’t her argument against the Cycle of Abuse also be used by abusive families to cover up their lack of action? After all, if no one from the immediate family abused the child, they must be a ‘good family’?

One of the posters on Stuff Fundies Like pointed out, “Aren’t we forgetting about original sin?”

Yes, original sin! That is the same motivation that drives fundamentalists into beating their children when they are mere infants and toddlers! Michael Pearl, the fundamentalist author of To Train Up A Child, believes that when an infant cries it is a sign of rebellion. It’s time for the parent to step in and show who is boss with some strikes at the crying child!

It makes me wonder if fundamentalist Christians really are capable of counseling those who have been abused. Can someone who believes in the doctrine of original sin be relied on by victims to advocate for them? Especially, if deep down, that Christian really believes the child was acting on innate sinful urges beyond his control? Who is arguing for leniency now? That sounds like an argument an accused molester, who recently found Jesus, could make!

“It’s a huge, complex problem with no easy answers.” wrote one Stuff Fundies Like poster.

It only becomes a mystery when the most obvious and logical explanation is ignored.

For information about:

Stuff Fundies Like discussion:

Review of Schizophrenic Christianity:

Cycle of Abuse:

Michael Pearl: