- 1 in 4 women report being the victim of abuse by a spouse/boyfriend in their lifetime. (United States statistics)
- More than three women per day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
- Women suffer 2,000,000 injuries per year from domestic violence.
You might wonder how a Christian family could be affected by domestic violence. I think the desire for control over others (often with the sincere intent of having a “godly” family at all costs) and the inability to control anger are two prime factors. This is compounded by the fact that many Christian women feel like it is their duty to submit to whatever their husbands say or do (as long as the wife is not personally sinning), and so they continue to enable abusive behavior. They may reason that their husbands are otherwise decent, hardworking members of society, and they don't want to damage their reputations in the church or community. Many Christian men insist it is their right as the leader of the family to assert their “God-given” authority and enforce whatever they wish to say or do. The wife may think, “He is controlling and verbally abusive, but he's never physically hurt me,” but if that goes unchecked, it can easily slide into physical abuse. Or she may think, “Well, he pushed me and I got hurt, but that was an accident. He's never tried to beat me up.” It's still physical abuse. If it happens once, it may be an accident that you can get past. But if it continues to happen, it is a pattern that needs to be interrupted.
In some cases, domestic violence against the wife occurs when she tries to intervene when her husband gets out of control while “disciplining” the children. In many Christian circles, especially among conservative home educators, there is a fear of both government intervention and professional counseling/therapy. There is also an emphasis on Christian marriages staying together at all costs “until death do us part” – which sometimes it does when one spouse murders the other. Whatever the reasons, whatever the extent, these extremely unhealthy dynamics are something for a qualified, professional counselor to explore. (Pastors can help, but some of them are just not equipped. In so many cases, a wife is told to just go home and pray for her husband, forgive, stop being so bitter, submit more, give him more sex, keep the house cleaner, get the kids under control, and try harder not to make him angry. This is total crap! Seriously? Blaming the victim just won't cut it anymore.)
I am no expert on domestic violence, but I do personally know several families who have been affected and I have been involved in intervening/supporting in a few cases. Several of my friends and fellow bloggers have also been directly and regularly involved in counseling women in abusive situations, especially in Christian families. I appreciate their input about this topic which has enabled me to write this article, which I had already been planning for my series on Advocating for the Vulnerable. I've been asking around and gathering my information for a while. I can't write a comprehensive or scholarly article, but I can ask you to stop, think, read some more.
- The symptoms: unexplained injuries, fear, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, distrust, isolation, avoidance, overly passive or overly aggressive behavior
- The kinds of abuse: physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.
- The repeating cycles and patterns of abuse:(1) violent incident(2) guilt/excuses/remorse/reconciliation(3) calm/normality(4) tension/escalation
- The psychological tactics of abuse: dominance, intimidation, threats, denial, blame, isolation, inappropriate rules, belittling, shaming
- Effects of Domestic Violence on Mothers and Children at Joyful Heart Foundation
- 12 Reasons Why Couples Counseling Is Not Recommended When Domestic Violence Is Present
- RAVE: Religion and Violence e-Learning (note: this site has embedded audio that plays as soon as you load, so if you need to be discrete about what you are doing, turn your sound off or plug in earphones before you click)
- The Stained Glass Story of Domestic Violence – a visual metaphor of hope after brokenness
- Christianity and Domestic Violence - a blog post with lots of links and good information
- Crying Out for Justice blog by Jeff Crippen (a pastor)
- Towards an Effective Church Response to Domestic Abuse
- The Church's Response to Domestic Violence
- More Than Just a Black Eye by Elisabeth Klein Corcoran (kinds of abuse)
- FaithTrust Institute: Domestic Violence - articles from various religious perspectives
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800)799-7233
USA Domestic Abuse Hotline: (800)999-SAFE
- Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them: Breaking the Cycle of Physical and Emotional Abuse by Paul Hegstrom, Ph.D. - this is a Christian book by a pastor who had been an abusive husband
- Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft – check your public library
- Free Yourself from an Abusive Relationship: 7 Steps to Taking Back Your Life by Andrea Lissette, M.A. And Richard Kraus, Ph.D.
- Submission is Not Silence by Elisabeth Julin (this link is for my review)
- When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley – a novel about a patriarchal Christian family (this link is for my review)
"Love that is coerced is not real, and neither is submission that is coerced. Personal dominance, dictatorships in marriage and other forms of mind control that are camouflaged by religion are all unbiblical. No religion or denomination has permission from Scripture to control a woman. Some try hard, but they have to violate Scripture in the process. The biblical truth is that no human being is justified coming between you and God. In the end of time, when it is your turn to stand before God, you will face Him alone." Elisabeth Julin in Submission Is Not Silence
- SafeHouse of Seminole: A confidential shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, includes counseling, practical support, legal help, etc. www.safehouseofseminole.org
- Harbor House (Orange County): Shelter for victims of domestic violence, includes counseling, practical support, legal help, etc. www.harborhousefl.com
- Kids House of Seminole Children's Advocacy Center: Help for families dealing with child abuse; friendly, non-threatening atmosphere, includes counseling, support, information on resources, referrals for substance abuse treatment, etc. www.kidshouse.org
My other articles in the Advocating for the Vulnerable series are:
For peace and justice,