Tamar's Refuge near Phoenix believes the time has come to open a treatment center to help heal women who have been hurt by the church.

The need for counseling and renewal for the wives of male pastors as well as women in ministry has long been "swept under the carpet, especially when a church starts to fall apart," says Linda Reilly, who ran a crisis hotline for women in leadership for 12 years.

"Denominations often concentrate on reaching out to pastors in a crisis," says Reilly, but not to their wives and families, who usually bear a lot of the stress that comes from a church split or an extramarital affair.

Sexual misconduct or abuse within the church not only harms women, but it also isolates them from the very institution they depend on for help and protection, according to Nancy Myer Hopkins, a congregational healing specialist.

This betrayal can be so damaging that "Some times people need to get out of the unhealthy environment of their church in order to get well," Hopkins maintains.

Pastors and parachurch leaders can receive help for their families at a number of national interdenominational clergy-care facilities, including Fair Haven in Tennessee and Marble Retreat in Colorado. But few offer free treatment for women wounded in ministry.

Tamar's Refuge offers expense-free room and board for an unlimited time to women referred by counselors or denominations. On-site pastors Charles and Laurie Hamby provide support to the women.

"This is a need that hasn't really been addressed," says Sharon Black, a Tamar's Refuge organizer. "We hope we will save women lots of desperation and tears."

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