Often people don’t believe a woman who says she is a victim of domestic violence if they see no bruises. Emotional wounds leave no visible bruises. My friend understands this completely.
They went through premarital counselling with me.
I officiated their wedding decades ago.
They left our church because he didn’t agree with my views on marriage, among other things.
She suffered years of emotional abuse by her husband.
I’m humbled she is still my friend. I didn’t see her suffering.
Her silent torment woke me to domestic violence in Christian families. How many others are suffering?
Domestic Violence Is A Behaviour Not A Sickness
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour in which a person uses coercion, harassment, deception, humiliation, threat and force to establish and maintain power and control.
Abuse is not about someone snapping, losing it, being pushed or being nagged until he can’t take it. It’s about power and control.
The abuser does not “lose it” in front of his commanding officer, in the pastor’s office or a business office. He “loses it” with his wife and children.
It’s not about being sick, but about being slick.
A Pattern Of Abuse
First, a husband establishes control by cutting his wife off from contact with friends and family. By dictating who she sees, what she wears, how she styles her hair, when she uses the car, how much money she has, what she does and where she goes.
From social isolation and control, the behaviour escalates into psychological battering with name-calling from sexual slanders to put downs.
Then come threats or destruction of property or pets, showing what the man can do to the woman.
Abuse may escalate to beatings, strangulation or just blocking her from leaving a room.
Who are men who abuse? Athletes, construction workers, physicians, attorneys, pastors, fathers, uncles, brothers.
Who are the women violated? They work in all jobs and in homes. They are mothers, sisters, friends, daughters and granddaughters.
Beyond physical abuse or sexual assault, domestic violence includes emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse.
The oft-quoted justification from Ephesians 5:22 that wives are to be subject to their husbands leaves out verse 21 and following verses that say a man and a woman are to be subject to and responsible to each other.
5 Christian Teachings Used To Support Abusers
1) Marriage is sacred: Some pastors think it’s impossible for a married man to abuse, because a wife is a man’s property. But no means no, and sexual assault is a crime in marriage. An abuser has already broken the marriage covenant by the abuse. The safety of a wife and children are more sacred than keeping a marriage together at all costs. Don’t turn the marriage covenant into an idol.
2) Divorce under any circumstances is wrong: Jesus said divorce is permitted if there is adultery. (Matthew 19:8,9) The New Testament also offers a concession when there is desertion. (1 Corinthians 7:10-16) Emotional and psychological abuse is desertion. Saying divorce is an abomination sounds religious, but we must say violence is an abomination.
3) Women are to be submissive; and
4) Men are to be the head of the house: These teachings, based on a couple of verses in Ephesians 5, have caused many Christian women to be abused, even killed. Nine of 12 verses in Ephesians 5:21-33 admonish husbands and wives to be subject to each other and define a husband’s responsibility to put his wife first ahead of his own needs or desires.
5) Christians should always forgive those who wrong them: Some women hope if they forgive, everything will be okay. Forgiveness does not do something for someone else. The abuser must be held accountable: to confess, admit what he did, accept responsibility and repent. Reconciliation means restoration to harmony. An abusive relationship cannot be restored to harmony because the perpetrator cannot be trusted. (Luke 17:3)
Perpetrators need treatment that holds them accountable and requires restitution.
My friend says, “Abuse happens to the rich and the poor, to the Christian and the non-Christian, to men and women. So many teachings I read and heard told me the “godly wife” will submit more, pray more, give more sex, serve him more and then God will change him. That is so wrong!! God’s heart is never for someone to stay in abusive situations. There is healing, there is freedom.”
Do you know someone suffering abuse or you suspect is being abused?
Discreetly reach out to them. Offer them your support without being judgmental or giving advice. Be someone they can talk to who would understand.
Get support at The Today Centre in Edmonton
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