Domestic Violence

Jehovah’s Witnesses Encouraging Women to Stay With Violent, Abusive Husbands

As brought out in other posts under the Domestic Violence category, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a good reputation when it comes to abuse in the home.  While in the religion, I personally saw women being abused by JW husbands and then get blamed for it by the elders, and along with physical abuse, all forms of verbal and mental abuse of women were common.

Jehovah’s Witnesses often claim that they abhor violence against women, and will say that women are honored in their own homes.  However, a closer look at their literature tells a different tale.

Encouragement to Stay

The April 2013 Awake magazine had a cover article on domestic violence, and an experience inside told the story of “Troy” and “Valerie.”  Over the years, starting from before they were married, Troy beat Valerie, pistol-whipped her, and even held a knife to the throat of their son while threatening her.

It’s not said how long this went on, but it’s related that Valerie began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses when their daughter was six, so it had to be at least several years.  Valerie’s study made Troy even more violent, until he finally accepted his own study, and apparently this is what helped him to change.

Valerie is quoted as saying:

“Do not be quick to compare your situation with that of anyone else or to follow advice from people who think they know what is best for you. Although not everyone will have the same outcome, I am glad that I did not throw my marriage away, because we have been blessed with a good relationship now.”

Think about these words for a moment.  Would you really call a relationship marked by life-threatening violence and child abuse a “marriage”?  If Valerie had left that marriage for her own safety, or for the sake of her children, would that really be “throwing it away”?

Valerie admitted that not everyone will have the same outcome, and she is absolutely right.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.  In 70%-80% of these cases, the man physically abused the woman before the homicide.  According to the American Psychological Association, some 3 women are killed by an intimate partner in the U.S. every day.

Chances are, Valerie meant that not everyone will have their husbands join them as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it’s also safe to say that not every woman would even survive that long.

Blaming the Woman

One of the most disturbing accounts I’ve read in JW literature regarding domestic violence is found in the February 15, 2012, Watchtower. There, it related the story of Selma, who was married to a man who was not a JW:

Selma observes: “Even before I got the truth, living with Steve was like walking on eggshells. He was hot-tempered. When I started studying the Bible, this characteristic intensified.” … “On one particular day,” says Selma, “I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Let’s stop for a moment.  Selma just told the JW studying with her that she had been physically assaulted the night before, and the woman’s response was not to ask about her well-being. The JW instead tells her to read the scripture noted above, which says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Read on:

As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’

Oh, well, of course.  What a woman who has just been hit by her husband needs is a lecture about her behavior, and whether or not she’s being loving to the man who’s beating her.

That’s exactly what they do at crisis centers; they immediately try to determine how you, the victim, are failing.  It’s what trained psychiatrists, PTSD counselors, and other experts do; they tell you how you could be doing so much more to love the person who’s beating you.  That’s the message they make sure to send, “Shame on you for not loving him more.”

No, wait, come to think of it, these ones do the exact opposite.

As a matter of fact, one problem that is common with women who stay in abusive relationships is self-blame.  The man will try to justify his abuse by saying that the woman does this-or-that, and the woman will believe it, saying that she needs to try harder to keep the kids quiet, or that she “should have known” not to talk to him when he needs space, etc. This attitude of self-blame is common in abused women, and one that experts need years to undo, if they can ever undo this thinking at all.

And then along comes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who simply reinforces that message, that you, as the woman, the one who is being abused, need to be nicer and more loving, and more concerned about your own efforts.


Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking …

Why would Selma need to adjust her thinking?  She’s not the one who hit someone, she’s not the one who is described as being “hot-tempered,” and who made others walk around on eggshells.  Why does the victim of a crime need to change, and not the criminal?

I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.”After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth.

Seventeen years?  Seventeen years?  This woman continued to endure abuse for 17 more years, hoping he would change?  What if he didn’t; would she have been one of those statistics mentioned above?

Seventeen years is enough time to give birth to a child and see it get old enough to drive; think about all those years, and imagine being physically and emotionally abused every day.  Interesting, too, is that when Steve “accepted the truth,” this doesn’t guarantee that the abuse stopped.  As said, domestic violence is far too common in JW homes, so it may very well have continued, at least to some extent, even after Steve became a Witness.

Encouraging Them to Stay

In all fairness, Jehovah’s Witnesses have said that a woman may leave a home if there is absolute endangerment to life and limb, and the book, “Shepherd the Flock of God,” the handbook for elders, says that it’s not up to them (elders) to tell someone that they cannot leave.  Adultery, however, is the only grounds for divorce and remarriage, so if a woman does separate, she cannot simply marry another; also, while the “Shepherd” book says one thing, there are many personal experiences I know of elders outright telling women that they don’t have “scriptural grounds” to leave (my own mother included).  It’s also noteworthy that the “Shepherd” book is not available to all members of the religion, including women; it is to be kept secret from them, for the eyes of the elders only.


A domestic violence shelter, run by some religion or organization other than Jehovah’s Witnesses since they don’t provide these types of facilities for their congregants, or anyone.

It’s also worth considering the message anyone would reasonably take away from these examples.  Not only will you never read of Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraging women to get out of abusive situations, but here you have ones who are lauded for putting up with a lifetime of abuse, in the hopes that their husbands will eventually come around to being Jehovah’s Witnesses. Interesting that the Awake magazine above had a cover about the end of domestic violence, but inside, rather than encouraging women to get out and protect themselves, they subtly encourage them to stay. Some religions run shelters for abused women, but JWs do just the opposite, and talk consistently about the potential rosy outcome of staying and taking your beatings, hoping the husband will one day become a Witness himself.

If the goal is to have these men become Jehovah’s Witnesses, why not just knock on their door and preach to them every few months, the way they do everyone else?  Would Jehovah’s Witnesses send a man to the home of a physically violent person in order to study the bible with him, and tolerate being hit every time, in the hopes that the bible student would one day come around?  Would they do this for seventeen years?  Would they bring their own children and allow a knife to be held to their throat, and allow them to see this type of abuse?

woman lecturedIf that type of scenario is so difficult to imagine, why then are Jehovah’s Witnesses expecting women to risk their lives by staying in that same situation?  If the men of the organization wouldn’t dream of putting themselves at risk, week in and week out, why is this expected of the women?

Additionally, why was this woman chastised and lectured when it was someone else doing the abusing? No words of consolation or encouragement, no sympathy, no thought of even asking about her well-being, but a lecture.

Why should I, as a woman, be part of an organization that treats women with so little regard and respect, and that puts such little value on our health, safety, emotional well-being, and even our very lives? Is this really how Jehovah sees women, especially those who have been hit and assaulted and mistreated physically and emotionally? Is he really disappointed in them for how they’re not applying scripture and being loving to the person smacking them around?

Really, why should I worship this god? If this is Jehovah, why should I worship him?

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17 replies »

  1. I lived this. For nearly 4 years. It very easily could have cost me my life. It nearly did. At any rate, it cost me most of my sanity. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, with a father and brother and countless other family members as elders. I married a fellow Witness who ended up being extremely physically, emotionally and sexually abusive. If you can imagine it, chances are it happened. I left several times, but always went back after being admonished that Jehovah wanted me to go back to my husband and make my marriage. Finally, after worsening abuse and other indiscretions, I left again. The difference that time was I didn’t go back to a meeting since they again told me to go back. I firmly believe if I had remained, I would be dead. That was nearly 20 years ago and I am now happily married, with a beautiful family. However, as a result of my inactive status, I have lost my entire family, other than my husband and children.

    • I HATE the JW religion.They are the most evil of “Babylon the Great,” the world of false religion. I know all about them.I got out several years ago. There is NOTHING Christian about your family disowning you just because you have your own religion.There is NOTHING Christian about brainwashing people and frightening them into submission; protecting pedophiles and wife beaters; discriminating against any other lifestyle.It is GOD who does the judging; not these uneducated robots.It is a CULT.A very dangerous one.It is built to take EVERYTHING away from you.Every shread of joy and peace you could get in this life.No fun celebrations ( not even your own Birthday,) and a REAL chance at instant death if you need some procedures done in the hospital. They are sick and self righteous.This has NOTHING to do with the true love and forgiveness of Christianity; the gentleness and peace that our Lord wants us to feel….

  2. We escaped an emotionally and physiologically abusive home, fortunately..but unfortunately he did not hit (I say unfortunately..because many laws do not protect a woman if she is NOT physically abused THIS NEEDS TO BE CHANGED) he struck terror into myself and kids. Yes, I was the problem, I was the one who needed to ‘change’ “You are a pioneer, and to keep this status as a pioneer, you must endure”. Even sadder, at time the Society, Elders, Brothers; will help the abusive husband seek an un-scriptural divorce.
    I was not always a JW, so I had solace in that regard. Other religions do use Jehovah’s name and recognize that name solely to the Creator.
    I am free from the abuser and those who enabled him.

  3. I am one of jehovahs witnesses and I too was married to an abusive man and was told I had to stay with him. He also abused drugs and alcohol. I do believe Jehovahs witnesses have the truth about God…its the only religion that even uses His name Jehovah, and does the preaching work for a better world here on earth which is a direct command in the bible which gives us a better hope. However it does bother me immensely how they do encourage women to stay in abusive relationships. I experienced them doing it to me myself and it happened to my grandmother too as to why she was married to an abusive man for 35 years and the elders told her she couldn’t leave. I was told the same so I lived with it for two years. We also had a child. I finally left him giving him an ultamatim that either he had to stop and get help or he will not see us again till he did…his son too. He refused…so I just stayed true to my marriage vow and left him but continued waiting for him to get help, or I knew hed cheat on me. He picked the latter so I divorced him. At leaste I could look in the mirror knowing I tried making my marrage work if he got help thus sticking to my vow….but in a safe way protecting myself and my son. I also educated myself profusely on this kinda thing…there is so much out there. Now I realize how actually staying with an abusive mate is actually the worse thing to do. Its enabling the behaviour…giving him his cake and eating it too…why should he change? People don’t change when they are comfortable. They need a reason to change to be placed in front of them. Get help or lose me. Which one? A marrage certificate does not suddenly give the guy a right to hit or be abusive of any kind. And we as women are not dirt. We have rights. Also children are affected as well as their futures..its not our rite even to take away a good positive future for them and we are if we stay with an abusive mate. Children have rights and its our job as a parent to stick up for their rights and its not to be raised in an abusive home. It takes away their self dignity and self respect. Plus teaches them abuse is ok. I could go on and on. No offense but any Jehovahs witness that stays with an abusive mate is foolish. They are asking for disaster. For themselves and children. They must break the cycle. I am so sorry for those stuck in this now or have been through it. I don’t know why jehovahs witnesses put this in their magazines. I have met also two other Jehovahs witnesses who have stayed with their abusive mates because of what we are taught. I will never do this again nor put up with it from others, Jehovahs witnesses or not. I will report it to the police and social services if any abuse in any home…EVEN a jehovahs witness home.

    • Thank you for sharing your story and I’m glad you had the courage to get out. As for Jehovah’s Witnesses having the truth about the bible, I would encourage you to visit and note the many questionable doctrines they teach, including the use of the name Jehovah. Remember too that they teach from their own bible, which is a questionable translation at best. It seems odd that they would translate their own bible and then quote their own translation when needing to verify their doctrine. Note also that many other religions also preach worldwide, including Catholics. JWs will often claim they are the only ones to preach, but this is yet another outright untruth from them. Thanks again.

  4. This article from the WT caused me to disassociate myself this year although I faded out for years before DAing myself. I could not bear to think that an organization encourages boys, my sons to think that it is ok for them to hit women. No thank you.
    That article was so disturbing that it shook me to the core. I was abused mentally, verbally and a little bit physically. To this day, my ex is such a narcissistic and believe he had done nothing wrong. The WTS truly is a men club.

    • I saw so much domestic violence when I was in; it was truly sickening. Of course the women were blamed for “provoking” their husbands by “not being submissive enough.” Yeah, right. One elder came home from work and just started screaming and punching his wife for nothing, and one started screaming when she was outside, nowhere near him. He actually followed her into the bathroom, broke down the door, and hit her when she was hiding by the toilet. Both times they were told it was their fault. Disgusting, sickening, and a bunch of other such words.

      • I’m an ex jw and not from USA but I’ve married a jw while we were both in the faith.
        Before marriage everything seems ok, a day before the official date of marriage, he got raged because of misunderstanding but not to a sever point, so I decided to marry him.
        I made a huge mistake. We’ve tried several times to heal the relationship and I can’t say I didn’t have my own faults of mistrust and mis concentration. Those 2 things made him in a very bad behavior towards me which occurred almost every single day, and while my kids and I came to visit him, he got rage on me because I was very depressed (out of his own behavior) and I went to the room and kept quite for about 5 hours and he decided that since I didn’t apologize to him, to lock me in the room throw my personal stuff and my wedding dress and the ring, saying i don’t deserve to be his wife, my child (from my first marriage saw it and got panicking and started to cry). He also put his feast on the wall and made a hole with blood stained.
        A week after i had a flight back home and he became kind just so I will get back to him. I couldn’t bear the pain and anger inside me and I started to behave just like him for 2 months while he was acting “patience”. Than he convinced me that he changed and let’s try again. I went there again and things seem to go well until the last day i flew back he interigated me about something and it felt bad, but he didn’t lose his temper. Than that was my last visit there and I discovered that I can’t change him so he put the blame on me, he did take responsibility for his actions but I always felt I’m the one to blame.
        Just few days ago he decided to divorce me (i must say that I asked so many times to divorce or separate but he kept pursuing me to stay). Now he dissappear and I am married on the papers only.

  5. I feel sick to my stomach reading this. I was badly abused as a JW kid, for years, yet it was ME the elders would come to interrogate & threaten, holding my arms down, screaming in my face that if my mother allowed them, they’d ‘discipline’ me themselves. I was constantly told I was ‘disobedient’, ‘rebellious’, that ‘satan’ was in me, and was used as an example by the elders to other JW parents as to what would happen to THEIR kids if they didn’t continue to brainwash them, dragging them to meetings & book studies. Not ONCE did a person in our congregation ask if I was ok. I was made to feel like a horrible, worthless human being who never deserved love, caring or protection. I knew what was being done to me as a child was wrong, even reported it to social workers myself. But my mother, with THE ASSISTANCE OF THE ELDERS, conviced social workers that I was simply a ‘disobedient child’. Even my non-JW family members were convinced of this. So how is this related to spousal abuse?

    All of this early abuse, facilitated by the JW elders, led to me getting into several abusive relationships as an adult, two of which nearly ended in my death. And I stayed in those relationships, remembering how many times as a child I was told how rotten I was, believing I somehow deserved being beaten by my partner/s many years later. Not until several years after I was nearly murdered the second time, did I begin to believe I deserved better. That NONE of it was my fault. And I found somebody who truly respects me & loves me. Thankfully, by that time, I had been away from the JWs for quite some time. Had I still been around JWs, they would’ve ‘encouraged’ me to remain with either of my psychotic spouses, leading to my death. And of course, my history as a ‘rebellious’ JW kid would have been brought up again & again.

    I truly do feel physically ill reading through some of this JW garbage, especially that which pertains to abuse, however, I wish somebody would’ve started speaking out about the cult mentality of the JWs far earlier, because it would’ve saved many lives. I’m incredibly grateful for what you’re doing here now, though. I plan on handing out some of this info to the JWs standing on the street corners in our neighborhood who need a SERIOUS wake-up call.

    And may the ‘governing body’ all suffer from recurring cases of incredibly painful hemorrhoids 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, and I’m sorry that so much of your life was taken away before you got out and got safe. You’re absolutely right, they would have encouraged you to stay with an abusive person, and that cycle of violence would just continue. Please be sure you visit our groups on Facebook as you’re not alone at all in your experiences, and we always love to hear others tell their stories so no one can accuse us of making up things. Keep in touch!

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