Unholy Charade – Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

By Jeff Crippin with Rebecca Davies  – Justice Keeper Publishing, 2015
Order it from  Amazon.com 

Reviewer Esther Sweetman

Unholy Charade makes for uncomfortable reading. That is intentional. Over thirty years as a pastor in the USA, and many hours spent with the victims and survivors of domestic abuse, Jeff Crippen has a wealth of wisdom and experience to share.

The book opened my eyes to the horror of life for someone living with an abusive husband or wife, and presents a clear analysis of the ways in which abusers have lied and charmed their way into the hearts of church communities, time and again ensuring that their victims are either silenced, or not believed by the very people who should be supporting them.

Crippen is honest about his own past ignorance and arrogance in relation to issues of domestic abuse within his congregation, and calls on the church family, and especially its leaders, to face the facts, and to “…judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy”.

The author debunks the myths and misapplications of scripture, which have so often left victims at the mercy of their abusers, condemned by the church to a lifetime of misery and degradation because “God hates divorce”, “wives must obey their husbands”, or “Christians must forgive and forget”.

Some of the theological arguments he considers and dismisses struck me as non-issues or just plain wrong (e.g. ‘some Christians say that if we read secular books on the subject we are denying the sufficiency of scripture’) and it is clearly written for an American readership, but I would urge you to see past this, and to hear and respond to this heartfelt cry for justice. This is an important book.



By Ree Boddé

Available on SBS

The film is based on one such event, which occurred at a McDonald’s in Mount Washington, Ky., in 2004. In Zobel’s version, Dreama Walker stars as Becky, a blond, teenage employee of “Chickwich,” a fictional fast-food restaurant in Ohio, and Ann Dowd as her well-meaning manager, Sandra.

Early in the film, Sandra receives a call from a man claiming to be a local police officer named Officer Daniels, who explains that Becky has been accused of stealing from a customer. Officer Daniels then instructs Sandra to remove Becky’s clothes, her belongings, to help him “find the money,” and then — well, it just gets worse from there.

The most unsettling part of Compliance is that, from an outsider’s perspective, the whole escalation could have easily been avoided. As a viewer, one knows very early on that the caller isn’t really a cop, so why doesn’t this manager know? Why does she go along with it? Why does young Becky not resist?

When I watched it with a group of friends recently, one suggested that any ‘intelligent person would know right away that the caller wasn’t real, and obviously no cop would request this type of thing from a woman over the phone in a public place. Another suggested it was a matter of ‘IQ,’ and that anyone with a ‘high IQ’ wouldn’t fall for it. ‘These people were working at a fast-food store!’ a friend explained.

Someone else admitted that she wouldn’t have asked if the man was a real police officer. ‘If you truly believed there was a threat of consequence, you would have done it,’ she said. ‘A police officer is calling, saying you might lose your job, you might be held accountable if you don’t do these things, you just might follow through.’

The events in the film paralleled those of the famous experiments done by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s, in which he told subjects they were in control of a dial that administered electrical shocks to a person in the next room. As he ordered them to turn the dial higher and higher, they obeyed, even though they could hear screams and pleading through the wall. Milgram, with his white laboratory coat, stethoscope and clipboard, represented authority, and a majority of his test subjects were willing to turn their dials even up into a red “danger” area.

Compliance ends with the unnerving statement that over 70 similar incidents occurred in over 30 states. In 2006, a Florida jury spent just 40 minutes in deliberation and ultimately acquitted a man named David Stewart of all charges in Kentucky’s Bullitt County McDonald’s strip search case. This acquittal came in spite of the fact that a calling card used to place a similar menacing call in Idaho was found in Stewart’s home. Reports of analogous hoax calls in other states also stopped following Stewart’s arrest. Whether or not Stewart committed these horrific crimes, the jury’s hasty acquittal mirrors the outcome of countless sexual assault cases brought to trial in this country. Just like the actors in Compliance and the real people they represent, jurors are often seeped in a culture that blames women for the violence they endure and minimises the actions of perpetrators. Compliance may tell an alarming tale about subservience in the face of authority, but it also offers an alarming look at the influence of rape culture in fostering social obedience.

Flying with Broken Feathers


By Naomi J. Johnson

Available from the publisher: www.tayenlane.com (hard copy or ebook) or through Amazon.com

Reviewed by Faith Johnson

Flying with Broken Feathers is an anthology of original poems which forms a narrative of domestic violence, escape, healing and recovery. Weaving through this narrative are themes of nature and spirituality. They take us on a journey through abuse, despair and post-traumatic stress; that space before the reality of resurrection sets in, in which grief and anger are paramount. The reader is then drawn through this darkness to the point of healing and rebirth.

Since this reviewer is the poet’s mother, who may be seen to be biased, I instead quote the words of Naomi’s publisher, Kermit E. Heartsong, for the Melbourne book launch in 2014:

I was first introduced to Naomi’s poetry when she submitted two poems for review to our Poems from Conflicted Heart anthology. Despite the fact that they were submitted a little past the deadline, I was moved to read them. After I read Naomi’s submissions I immediately contacted her to let her know that both poems would be in our anthology. One must make exceptions when one has been moved so deeply by another …

The depth of emotion, the palpability of Naomi’s poems placed me in her reality. I felt and saw what she had experienced, as she shared her harrowing journey. A journey no less tragic, torturous or solitary than the mythical journey to Mordor. There being only one exception, her journey was real and lived. In Flying with Broken Feathers the cruel trauma of her recent past … comes to life in incredibly emotional and immersive poems.

Naomi and I have discussed on occasion the belief that there is a purpose in all life and all that we do and experience with others. Naomi’s poetry was not a subtle or timid reminder of this fact, it was a thunderclap. It was compulsory that I take this journey with Naomi. It would be a journey of words, emotion, rebirth and catharsis for Naomi and a powerful journey of understanding and empathy for me. And likewise, it was compulsory that Naomi’s poetry, her story, find the world and guide others to safety.

Flying with Broken Feathers serves as both a too-real tale of caution and a beacon of safety for others. Despite her journey and her incredible gift to vividly recreate her experience with words, she is, perhaps, the most humble, kind and compassionate soul I have met. I consider Naomi a kindred spirit in the Land Down Under.”

Since being released in Australia, Naomi has received many emails, comments and letters, including from Quentin Bryce and Rosie Batty, expressing the depth to which the poetry of Flying with Broken Feathers has moved them.

I commend this book to you.