After high school graduation my best friend and I, with similar hopes and dreams, attended different Adventist colleges. After three years, however, our lives took divergent turns. I was getting ready to start senior year of college; my friend was working part-time at a plant nursery while living with her boyfriend in a small apartment.
I visited her one hot summer weekend. After meeting up with her boyfriend and a few other friends for a late dinner, she and I left in her car. Instead of driving back to the apartment, she drove to the nursery. Deciding she could drive her Ford Fiesta around the locked gate to show me more of the property, she promptly got her car stuck in a ditch. She and I got out to push, but we couldn’t get it off the patch of rocky earth it was wedged on. She and I walked more than three miles on dark country roads back to the apartment. During our walk we prayed, and talked about God and our futures. It was good to reconnect with her on that midnight walk.
The good feelings didn’t last. Her boyfriend lashed out. He berated her for cheating on him, called her ugly names, broke dishes as he slammed them to the floor. He was deaf to her denials and pleas. He shoved her away as she tried to approach. He continued the belittling barrage until my friend was a crumpled, crying heap on the floor.
Stunned. Angry. Helpless. I stood there until the boyfriend turned toward me. I grabbed my car keys and his cousin and I started talking about how we were going to get the car off the outcropping. In a surreal moment he asked with surprise if the car was really stuck. “Come see for yourself,” I retorted. “I have no reason to lie to you, and she wasn’t lying to you either.”
The car was rescued that night, my friend was not. One year and one child later, she left him.
I regret that I wasn’t equipped to help her more. Other than encourage her to get away from him, I wasn’t sure what I could do. She felt trapped; and if it wasn’t fear for her child she may not have had the courage to leave.
Seek Help, Be a Help, End Abuse
Twenty years later both of us know a lot more about how to help someone seek assistance, how to stop the violent cycle. There are online resources, hotlines, counseling programs, and shelters that can assist. Our pastors and church leaders in various ministries should be one source of help. This September’s enditnow Pastors’ Summit on Abuse is an important one-day training event for those leaders.
According to statistics presented on the website enditnownorthamerica.org, more than 12 million men and women are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner each year. And while abuse isn’t always physical or sexual, the following statistic is particularly alarming: in the United States, one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
In a recent newsletter, Claudio Consuegra, director of Family Ministries for the NAD, writes, “The Pastors’ Summit on Abuse [Sept. 11 in English; Sept. 12 in Spanish] will teach you to recognize abuse in its different forms, and how to intervene in a positive way.”
“The reality is that abuse will happen, and yes, it will happen even at church-sponsored events and in congregations,” says Armando Miranda, an associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the NAD, in an invitation to youth leaders.
Tracy Wood, an associate director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, agrees. “The Pastors’ Summit on abuse will be an experience that will provide the resources and a network of professionals who will help you follow practices of care and protection for those who have been abused. It will strengthen your ministry and our church.”
We can become equipped and, with God’s guidance and strength, we can help end abuse.
— Kimberly Luste Maran is an assistant director of the North American Division’s Office of Communication.
 “Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Widespread in the U.S.,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p1214_sexual_violence.html, accessed July 20, 2017.
 Statistics taken from The Center for Family Justice, https://centerforfamilyjustice.org/community-education/statistics/, accessed July 20, 2017.