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Domestic Violence and the Church





An ancient Chinese proverb says, 'A woman married is like a pony bought - to be whipped at the master's pleasure.' Similarly, a traditional Serbian saying instructs, 'Beat a woman and a horse every three days'. Even in classic British literature, the problem of domestic violence appears - the Shakespearean character Petruchio says of his wife, 'I will be master of what is mine own: She is my goods, my chattels.'

Domestic violence has occurred in families throughout history. However, it has only been since the seventies, when Erin Pizzey set up the first women's refuse at Chiswick Woman's Aid, that any serious research has been done into the issue. Since then interest in the subject has continued to grow.

I. What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is not a concept which is easily defined. It may be regarded narrowly, using terms such as 'wife battering' or 'spouse abuse' to confine it to the context of physical violence between adult parties. Other studies have looked at domestic violence in the wider context of the family unit as a whole, including violence aimed specifically at children or the increasing problem of 'elder abuse'.

Even the term 'violence' carries differing connotations. Some researchers have placed the emphasis on the use of some degree of physical force. Other look at the motivation behind the physical act. Indeed, violence covers all kind of physical act: kicks, punches, slaps. pushes, burns. use of weapons, pulling hair, shaking, dragging, choking, biting, rape and so on.

Verbal abuse of victims is extremely common. Constant use of filthy and derogatory terms- often sexual in nature - demoralize a victim, making her feel worthless, dirty and unloved.

Can Men Be Victims?

Research on domestic violence was initiated mainly by feminists and the focus remains on women victims. However, the focus is now slowly shifting as recognition grows that men mat also be victims. Society as a whole is less willing to accept mail victims are able to turn for help.


How Common a Problem is Domestic Violence?

It is all too easy for domestic violence to remain a hidden crime, known about only by the parties involved. Victims are so isolated or are amongst friends and family who do not have a realistic view of domestic violence and have no one in whom they can confine. Thus, many incidents of domestic violence remain a secret.

The challenge to the Christian community and to pastoral theology to develop a relevant pastoral response to battered women exists at all levels from the individual to the societal.
The church has a duty to respond to individual victims of domestic violence, be they within or without the folds of the church.
II. Domestic Violence - The Reality
Domestic violence is a pernicious, evil force which has seemingly destroyed the potential of their lives.

Who is Abused? or Who are the victims?

It is a myth that only low-income women are abuse. In fact, it is a myth to say anything other than that domestic violence can happen to all women, everywhere.

Leonore Walker, who has become an authority on the so-called 'Battered Woman's Syndrome', conducted in-depth interviews with 120 battered women. She found that those women frequently: (a) had low self-esteem (b)accepted responsibility for the batterer's actions (c)suffered from guilt yet denied the anger and terror they felt (d) presented a passive face to the world (e) believed that no-one could resolve the predicament except themselves.

Who is Abuses? or Who are the Abusers?

It is a myth that only men earing a alow income or men who are not in the
professions are abusers. It is also a traditional but simplistic view that all domestic violence is caused by the abusers being under the influence of alcohol. A British study published in the British Medical Journal found that 74 per cent of abuse husbands had a drinking problem.  The drinking may itself may be a symptom of the underlying stresses or personality traits which are also causing the violence. In today's society it is common for man and women to drink to excess and not to be in control of their actions.
It is also commonly believed that abusive men come from abusive family. this is a partial truth.

The acts of violence is closely linked to control and manipulation. Violence can be an attempt to regain control and dominance. Or violence can be a way of overcoming jealousy as the abuser asserts himself as more influential than those of whom he is jealous.

Why Do Women Stay in Abusive Relationships?

Many women do not stay. Some may leave after only one or two incidents of
violence. Others may leave after repeated attempts to free themselves from the tangled webs of their lives. However, others stay for the rest of their lives.

One of those reasons is emotional attachment to the relationship. At some stage in the women's life there must have been a strong bond of love between the victim and abuser for the relationship to have commenced. Women may look at the superficial causes for the violence and concentrate on those: 'It's only when he drinks.'

Except in the most severe cases, the violence is not usually constant. Generally there is a circle which may be relatively long or short, depending on the couple.

The theory of 'learned helplessness' suggest that a victim will at first try to modify her own behaviour to prevent the violence. However, she will fine that the violence continues. Since the violence is not in fact linked to her behaviour, but rather to the attitudes and beliefs of her abuser, her efforts will have no effect. She will then translate her inability to protect herself into a perception that she has no control over her life. The common portrayal in our society of a good mother as one who will suffer for her children may also affect her considerations.

Generally women in our society are less powerful than men in economic terms. This means that the system collaborates with the abuser in making it harder for the victim to leave the home than it would be for a men.

How are the Victims Affected by Domestic Violence?

It is a myth that. once the physical injuries of a violent attach have healed. the victim is left unaffected. Apart from the fact that the worst assaults may leave victims with permanent physical injury.

That a victim may be afraid is not a startling statement. The fear will rule all her decisions and actions. This depth of fear can have a debilitating effect on her physical health.

Domestic violence is not just about the battering of a body. it is about the
systematic destruction of the whole person.


What about the Children?

It is a myth that children can be effectively protected from the violence which goes on in their own home. Children living in the shadow of an abusive relationship are inevitably affected - physical complaints such as stomachache and headaches. sleep disturbances. fear being killed. escape into drug or alcohol abuse, running away from home. suicidal thoughts and actions.
Domestic violence destroys the safe environment of family life in which children should ideally develop.



III. What Causes Domestic Violence?

It is a topic which is coming rapidly to the forefront of current social attention. A woman who has suffered a beating at the hands of her husband may ask herself what she has done wrong to cause the violence.

A psychiatrist dealing with a violent spouse may look into his background to see if there were any elements of his upbringing that may have caused his violent tendencies.

A sociologist may look at the environment in which the abuse took place. On the surface, there is no one simple answer to the Question, 'what causes domestic violence?' It is as if each theory is a weak ray of light which cannot fully illuminate the issue.

It is only when we add to the studies the teaching of the Word of God. which acts as a lamp to our feet. that the whole answer can more clearly' be seen.

The Bible provides a one-word answer. What is the cause of domestic violence?

Sin.

Sin is essentially a spiritual concept, speaking of a wrongdoing which causes a separation from God (Isa 59:2, Ps. 51:5).

IV. A Causation Model - Combining the Theories

The Cultural Patterning of violence

This theory says that violence is part of our culture, part of the normal day-to-day life in our society. It is not surprising that violence should take place in some of our families, since families are part of our culture too. This concept of violence as a cultural problem is a convenient starting but can then be broken down a little further.


1. Cultural Spillover of Violence

The first point is that violence spills over from other spheres of life into the family arena. This cultural spillover theory says that violence in the family is a reflection of the fact that violence is common in other areas of our life.

In other words. it is suggested that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior which is derived from the perpetrator being constantly immersed in a culture which accepts and promotes violence. It is not hard to think of ways in which violence is stimulated and encouraged in our society. Violent films are commonplace.

Another example is the sanctioning of violence in war. Increasingly, war is taking on entertainment status as we11.
Children's toys often take the from of replicas of imaginary weapons, whilst video games revolve around destruction of the enemy. Sports such as boxing and wrestling are overtly violent.

2. The Cultural Consistency Theory

This theory says that our culture incorporates certain values. these values are not really concerned with violence in themselves. but they do govern family life. They do so in a way which can both lead to and perpetuate violence within a family. The idea of a link between family life and wider community values is not a new one.

a) Patriarchal Theory

The patriarchal theory is closely associated with the feminist perspectives on domestic violence.
Those who hold to this theory argue that our society is male-dominated and that power is vested in men to dominated and to control women. All they say is that it is a man's world, and so domestic violence is not .surprising.

b) Status Inconsistency Theory

This theory is that domestic violence is born of the frustration that occurs when the abuser perceives his status within the home as being lower than it should be. This is especially so when the abuser's power has eroded whilst the victim's has increased. Often this power is financial.

c) The Theory of Power Differentials

Power is a very important factor in domestic violence. This often is the case when the abuser is low power outside the home but can create. or keep. great power in the home by his use of violence. The home may be the only place where an abuser feels in control. Violence in such cases may show his anger and frustration.


V. What Help Can the Law Give?

There are a wide range of laws which can assist and protect a person suffering from violence.


Injunction

The most immediate civil law action to protect a victim from domestic violence is an injunction. An injunction is the term for any court order which either prohibits a Respondent from doing something or else mandates that he should perform a specified act. Court do have the power to make injunction in any case. In essence there are now two types of domestic violence injunctions - non-molestation order and occupation orders.

Divorce / Judicial Separation

Christian victims of domestic violence often struggle with the decision as to
whether to divorce or not. Some feel that they are justified in doing so, while
others feel that they would not oppose a divorce initiated by their partner but cannot conceive of starting one themselves. Yet others feel that whilst they need a formal separation. divorce is not the answer. In such cases. a judicial separation can often be the answer.

VI. Emphasizing Eradication

How the church, and its members, can help victims deal with their own problems and how the church can play a part in eradicating domestic violence from society. The most effective help in any situation is always given with clear aims and a clear understanding about what is to be achieved. The church will adopt an active policy of intervention. The question is : what approach should the Church adopt when deciding to intervene?

Approaches to Intervention

Intervention in domestic violence cases can be either compassion-based or
control-based.

A compassion-based approach emphasizes the compassion shown to the abuser. In such an approach he is seen as a kind of victim himself - a victim of his poor family background, a victim of inherent personality traits. The emphasis is on looking at societal and developmental causes for his behaviour. It would be essential non-punitive. It would focus on helping the abuser overcome his 'violence problems' and improve his family life by developing more appropriate ways to deal with interpersonal relationships.

A control-based approach, on the other hand, would be much more punitive. Full responsibility would be placed on the abuser for his actions. He would be seen as 'in the wrong' and needing correction and punishment for his deliberate misdemeanors.

The church need to be clear that abusers are not automatons at the mercy of the society around them. but are sensible human beings responsible for their actions.

However, the church's aim should also be to maintain healthy family units. It is the role of the church to bring the Christian message of healing and reconciliation to families in a very real and practical sense as well as in a spiritual sense. The church should provide abusers with firm guidelines and support, conductive to their accepting a new non-violent set of attitudes and .learning new ways of relating to their partners. There are three main areas in which a church could channel its energies. Intervention can be victim-orientated(physical protection. support and advice, greater social mobility), offender-orientated or society-orientated. All three orientations are necessary if domestic violence is to be eradicated. All three strands are equally important.

Conclusion

The church does have one clear advantage over other social agencies. It is the guardian of the Word of God, the ultimate blueprint for life. If the fundamental root of domestic violence lies in sin, then the ultimate solution lies in salvation and renewal through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Church is called to deliver this message to all mankind-domestic violence victims included.



BIBLIOGRAPHY


HELEN. L. C. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE CHURCH. LONDON, PATERNOSTER PRESS, 1988


FREEDMAN, V., VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY, CAMBRIDGE, INDEPENDENCE. 1995

DAGGER, J., INTERDISCIPLINARY OF PASTORAL STUDIES, CONTACT, 1995

WAIKER, L, REPRESENTING BATTERED WOMEN WHO KILL, THOMAS. 1989

GAYFORD. J. WIFE BEATING : A PRELIMINARY SURVEY OF 100 CASES,
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL VOL.l, 1975

GOLDSTEIN J. H, AGGRESSION AND CRIMES OF VIOLENCE. OXFORD. OXFORD UNNERSITY PRESS, 1986 STRAUS. M., THE SOCIAL CAUSES OF HUSBAND - WIFE VIOLENCE, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, 1979















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