Domestic violence comes in many disguises. Sometimes domestic violence is overt, blatant, obvious. More often, though, domestic violence is insidious. It comes in quietly, all in the name of love, wisdom, security, protection, religion.
It comes in the name of love, claiming to have your best interests at heart. It comes in the name of wisdom, claiming to know what’s best for you in every area of your life. It comes in the name of security, claiming to keep you safe. It comes in the name of protection, claiming to shield you from those who just want to use you. It comes in the name of God, claiming Scripture gives your partner certain inalienable rights over you.
It creeps in and you’re hardly aware of it, until all of a sudden, you begin to notice small things: He raised his voice. He grabbed my wrist. He ignored me. He called me stupid. Told my family and friends I was mentally under a lot of stress and emotionally unstable. Misquoted Ephesians 5:22-24 and ignored the verses that follow.
Even then you may doubt your senses: I’m imagining things. Exaggerating. Mr. Right loves me, he said so. And you begin to make excuses. You take the blame. It’s all my fault. If I hadn’t broken that dish, burned the biscuits, been late, disagreed with him. Then I wouldn’t have made him angry. But he apologized for raising his voice. For threatening to take my debit card away from me. For giving me the silent treatment. Everything’s ok now.
Until the next time.
You may have noticed, it never ends. Tension begins to build again. You can’t keep him happy and satisfied all the time. You cannot keep from doing or saying something that sets him off. And even if you could figure out what to say or do, it wouldn’t be good enough. It never is. So there’s the inevitable breaking point. Another episode of violence, followed by more tears and more apologies. Then reconciliation. And then it begins again.
Domestic violence is never about the issue-of-the-moment. It’s not even about you. It’s about the compulsion of one person to have and to exert power and control over another. Is there a way out? Of course there is. But it may not be easy. It might even be dangerous. But as dangerous as escape might be, remaining with an abusive partner is even more so.
“Oh well,” I can almost hear you thinking as you read this blog post, “We don’t have to worry about domestic violence, do we? We are Christians after all. In a Christian family. In a Christian home. We faithfully attend church. It doesn’t happen to us and it doesn’t happen in our churches.”
Oh, yes it does! Studies have shown that the statistical rates of domestic violence are virtually the same for churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike. That means that yes, among the people sitting in the sanctuary of your faith community, the likelihood is that there are families experiencing domestic violence. 30% of women globally have experienced domestic violence. 75% of Americans say that they know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. This plague on our society cannot be ignored. We must begin to make a difference.
I’ve heard people say, “That’s all well and good, but I’m only one person. What difference can I make?” You can make all the difference in the world. First, pray. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal God’s plan and purpose for you. Pray and ask the Lord to show you how to prepare, how to take action, how to be an advocate for those trapped in the cycle of abuse. Then study, read, learn about the visual signs of abuse. Know about local organizations that can help. Study Scripture so that you are ready to deflect the outrageous notion that women deserve what they get, that it’s their fault, and (the most heinous of all) that it’s God’s will.
Who knows but that the Lord has brought you to this place “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14). If God calls you to action, God will provide what you need. “And my God will supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19).
Rev. Betty-Rae Hopkins serves as pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Kingstown in Rhode Island. A former national officer on the board of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, Betty-Rae currently serves as president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Rhode Island.
This blog post is also serving as a resource during “Garlands into Ashes,” a virtual mission encounter on domestic violence hosted this week by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Virtual mission encounters allow you the opportunity to engage in critical issues in more depth through emailed daily activities, online conversation with other participants, and evening conference calls with special guests. Although registration for this event is now closed, please visit www.abwministries.org/events for information on our next virtual mission encounter, “For I Was in Prison and You Visited Me: Prison and Aftercare Ministries,” November 4-8, 2013, and other events hosted by AB Women’s Ministries.