Has Economic Downturn Caused Increase in Domestic Violence?

In the course of my on-going research on domestic violence I keep an eye on the news. Right now there are articles literally every day about how the economic downturn is sparking a rise in the rates of domestic violence. DV rates are usually up this time of year and with the additional stress of people losing jobs and the overall economic recession, marital abuse rates are even higher than usual.

It occurred to me, however, that for women walking in this situation it would be very easy to see the reality backward. I would have seen it that way — I did see it that way when I was in it.

We had some very bad financial reverses. And the violence and verbal abuse always escalated during those times. The holidays were a nightmare every year – both because the rages increased and because my ex had to control every single moment and breath in his own special way. My ex lost his job in 1996 and his resultant violence led to our first separation. He retrained in the computer tech field — just in time for the bottom to completely drop out of that industry. While he, fortunately, did not lose his job, he did not get a raise for seven years up through the time of our divorce. He stayed at entry-level even though he had some promotions. This, of course, led to significant financial stress, since the cost of living didn’t remain stable but increased by approximately 1/3 in our area during that time (I’m trying to remember what I figured out at the time; that’s not an exact number).

My perspective of it from the inside at the time was that his anger was because of his stress, issues at work, because he lost his job, because he couldn’t provide for his family like he wanted to, etc. But here’s the nugget — I excused, or made excuses for, his rages and actions, based on the circumstances. This is the same thing he always did. His rage was always because I did…, the kids did…, if you would only….

Rage and other personal emotions and actions are always a personal choice. They are not something that happens to a person against their will. They choose to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise. They can choose NOT to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise.

There is no medical condition* and no circumstances that excuse anger, rage, violence, verbal abuse, name calling, etc. You may doubt me, but this is a fact. It took me a very, very, very long time to learn this myself. Somehow a whole lot of other people in the world, even people with bi-polar disorder (a common excuse) or other medical conditions, manage to learn to be responsible for their behavior under even worse circumstances, without abusing those around them. Somehow other marriages, comprised of two imperfect people, manage to exist for entirely lifetimes without rage, anger, disrespect, violence, etc.

There is no excuse, EVER. Grasping this fact is the very first step to getting free of marital abuse. Once you know with absolute certainty that no circumstances are bad enough to excuse this behavior you can see past it and stand for truth. That gives you options and it gives you strength.

No matter how much the holidays may bring additional stress or how much additional stress the economic recession may cause, these are not an excuse for marital abuse. All these circumstances do is provide an opportunity to reveal a person’s choices to be an abuser. The abuser is an abuser because that is their choice – the circumstances just give them another chance to show it.

[*Let me state, it is possible for a person to experience brain damage or defect which results in the loss of ability to control impulses, leading to uncontrollable violence. However, this is medically diagnosable and these individuals must be medicated and/or institutionalized. They are not free to hurt people at random because they have a medical excuse. This is an entirely different situation than domestic abuse. I rather doubt that a domestic abuser would be willing to undergo medical testing and receive a diagnosis of brain damage and then accept the medical treatment for it. That ought to be a good enough litmus test right there. Another key to this – the violence is random for an abuser. A person with brain damage or defect is not able to miraculously control outbursts so they are targeted toward certain people and able to be contained at times when it would not be advantageous – such as before the new boss who is considering bestowing a raise.]

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Church Responses to Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This October is the22nd Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and candlelight vigils are being held throughout the month to remember victims of domestic abuse.

Several church groups are actively participating, both in activities during Domestic Violence Awareness month and in domestic violence intervention throughout the year. The linked article gives a brief look at some and I will be looking in more depth at some as well as the month progresses.

The Issue at the Heart of Domestic Abuse

I was doing some reading today and a phrase struck me, right in the middle of a letter someone had written. I’ve been trying to think how to put this thought into words and here it was, already done:

…an abused spouse is in bondage and cannot make Jesus Lord over her life as the abuser lords over her heart and mind, leaving the person unable to think correctly, living in constant fear rather than loving submission to God and each other. It is a known fact that spousal abuse causes damage to mind, soul, and spirit that is often irreversible…

This bit is from a letter quoted in an article called Divorce and the Church.

When an abusive spouse demands dominance of his wife’s time, thoughts, actions, viewpoints, theology, political opinions, dinner plans, housekeeping techniques, self-image – every littlest part of her being – he is making an idol of himself.

When an abuser says his wife is less than God says she is, he is making a god of himself. He is saying his opinion carries more weight than God’s opinion of his wife; therefore, He is greater than God.

God says she is good. God says He created her specifically, for a unique purpose. When an abuser says his wife is stupid, worthless, ignorant, rebellious, wicked, (you fill in the blanks), he is calling God a liar and making a god of himself because he is saying he is right and God is wrong.

When he accuses her where God does not, he is making a god of himself. He is holding his judgment higher than God’s judgment.

When an abuser physically hurts his wife, he demands that she violate her allegiance to God, who has told her to keep her body, His temple. So the abuser is usurping authority to denigrate the temple of God.

When an abuser says he is his wife’s absolute authority and everything he says is God’s word to her, he is making an idol of himself. Jesus died to enable a personal relationship between each of us and God Himself. Each of us must personally accept Christ as Savior. A husband cannot do that for his wife. Accepting Christ establishes a personal relationship with God; from that beginning the rest is a personal relationship as well. The Holy Spirit indwells each of us and speaks to each of us, personally. Any husband who stands in the middle of that, and demands that his voice is greater than God’s to her, is making an idol of himself.

An abuser demands that his wife divide her allegiance. She can be a Christian and follow God only where it doesn’t contradict his demands of her.

This is fundamentally why an abuse victim cannot remain with a spouse who persists in his abuse. If the abuser will not repent, fully – which includes taking all responsibility, making restitution and submitting to long-term accountability – that wife is obligated to God to separate from a man who demands she serve two masters and deny her Lord God.

In fact, in Ezra 10, God told the Israelites to divorce their wives who worshiped idols. In Is. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8 God says He divorced Israel because of their idolatry. Idolatry is absolutely a Biblical reason for divorce.

There is freedom in this understanding. This is a freedom the church needs to wrap their hands around and stop tying chains of bondage around abuse victims. When churches demand that abuse victims stay in an abusive marriage, they are participating in idolatry. They are agreeing with a false god and telling someone under their supposed spiritual protection (shepherd – servant guarding the flock for his master) to deny their faith and serve a false god. This is a very serious issue. The church should fall on its face in repentance for this sin. It is grievous. We should be helping victims to safety, not holding the doors to their cells shut.

SBC Professor Bruce Ware Blames Wives for Husbands’ Abuse

This article is courtesy of Ethics Daily. My thanks to the author, Bob Allen, for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

This article is such an appalling and revealing glimpse inside the mindset of Southern Baptist Church theology. The SBC certainly doesn’t hold the corner on the market with this viewpoint, however. There is a reason why I feel this article warrants particular attention. We are in a time when domestic abuse is becoming an epidemic in the church. The average pastor is completely unequipped to address the problem. In fact, the secret horror is that the pastor’s wife, in fact, is often one of the abused wives in the church – and there’s definitely no one available to help her. Not only is the pastor unequipped to address the issue of abuse professionally, the pastor applies erroneous theology when teaching from the pulpit and in private counseling. Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one of the men who is teaching these pastors the theology they are using to support abuse in Christian homes.

How will things in the pulpit ever change, when the pastors remain unchanged, because the seminary professors remain unchanged? When a student goes to seminary he is told he will be studying the Word to learn for himself what it teaches. However, the reality is quite different. Students are led to reach the theological conclusions of their denomination through the very deliberate slant in the teaching of their professors. I know this is true because I have seen it in action. In fact, if a student in seminary were to study the Word for himself and reach a conclusion contradictory to his professor, at the least he would receive a reduced grade and at the worst he would be expelled from school. This is the reality of seminary.

I have already written an article which thoroughly addresses the theology used by this speaker, in my article Theology of an Abusive Marriage. This article specifically addresses the misuse of the word “desire” in Genesis 3, the pattern of excusing the husband’s abuse because of his wife’s behavior (whatever happened to personal responsibility?), and the erroneous ideas that males were created before females and that females were created to complete males.

A couple of Ware’s points which I don’t address in the article above I will briefly address here. First, is his idea that woman sinned first but God held the man responsible because he was in authority. That interpretation reads into the text extensively. Adam blamed his wife. But God held the man responsible for using his wife as an excuse for his own choice. Using God’s standard for Adam, God would never accept the excuse that men abuse their wives because their wives don’t submit. God held each party responsible for their own sin and gave them each consequences in accordance with their actions. He did not buy in to their blame game.

Another misuse of Scripture in Ware’s argument is the eternal submission of Jesus to God the Father. In Philippians 2, the Word says that Jesus is equal with the Father. He voluntarily laid that equality down to become a man and interact with the Father as a man, rather than claim his rightful equality with the Father as God. In fact, using the model of the Trinity, we would have to come to the conclusion that husband and wife are equal, with differing roles, which, in fact, agrees with the Genesis record, as I explore in more depth in the Theology of an Abusive Marriage article. While Jesus was on earth living as fully man, he said he was under the authority of God the Father. This was while he was voluntarily laying aside his deity and functioning as a man. In fact, this is a HUGE theological point for us to understand. The authority Jesus had on this earth was no different than what He has given to us through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went out of His way to make it clear this authority was his as a man in submission to God the Father, and then made it clear this same authority was passed on to his followers. As humans, we are in eternal submission to the Father.

At the same time, in the relationship of the Trinity we see modeled equal authority and equal submission – which, indeed, should be a parallel for the human relationship of marriage. Each part of the Trinity has a different role and each submits to the other in His role.

That said, I leave you to read the words of Bruce Ware, and be amazed.

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One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said women desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.

“And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,” Ware said from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.

In North Texas for a series of sermons at the church on “Biblical Manhood & Womanhood,” Ware described his “complementarian” view as what “Southern Seminary as a whole represents.”

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden meant “her desire will be to have her way” instead of her obeying her husband, “because she’s a sinner.”

What that means to the man, Ware said, is: “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”

Ware said God created men and women equally in God’s image but for different roles.

“He has primary responsibility for the work and the labor and the toil that will provide for the family, that will sustain their family,” he said. “He’s the one in charge of leadership in the family, and that will become difficult, because of sin.”

Ware also touched on a verse from First Timothy saying that women “shall be saved in childbearing,” by noting that the word translated as “saved” always refers to eternal salvation.

“It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God’s ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as–for the most part, generally this is true–as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man’s position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men,” Ware said. “Rather than wanting that, she accepts and embraces who she is as woman, because she knows God and she knows his ways are right and good, so she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God’s design for her as a woman.”

Ware cited gender roles as one example of churches compromising and reforming doctrines to accommodate to culture.

“It really has been happening for about the past 30 years, ever since the force of the feminist movement was felt in our churches,” Ware said.

He said one place the “egalitarian” view–the notion that males and females were created equal not only in essence but also in function–crops up is in churches that allow women to be ordained and become pastors.

Ware said gender is not theologically the most important issue facing the church, but it is one where Christians are most likely to compromise, because of pressure from the culture.

“The calling to be biblically faithful will mean upholding some truths in our culture that they despise,” he said. “How are we going to respond to that? We are faced with a huge question at that point. Will we fear men and compromise our faith to be men-pleasers, or will we fear God and be faithful to his word–whatever other people think or do?”

Ware offered 10 reasons “for affirming male headship in the created order.” They include that man was created first and that woman was created “out of” Adam in order to be his “helper.” Even though the woman sinned first, Ware said, God came to Adam and held him primarily responsible for failure to exercise his God-given authority.

Ware also said male/female relationships are modeled in the Trinity, where in the Godhead the Son “eternally submits” to the Father.

“If it’s true that in the Trinity itself–in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit, there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father–if that’s true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority.”

Pastors’ Role in Combatting Domestic Abuse

This article is courtesy of The Freeport News. Particularly note the section I have put in bold.

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By Angelo Armbrister

What began as a means of honouring the memory of her late sister has grown into something more — a personal quest to save others from falling victim to domestic violence.

Shavon Munnings, a former victim herself, first held a candlelight vigil in 2006, in memory of her sister, Tiffany Smith, who was tragically killed a year earlier as a result of domestic violence.

The emotional evening ceremony, broadcast live on Cool 96, featured two dynamic speakers out of New Providence — Woman Superintendent Elaine Sands and Pastor Donna Hyler — who dissected the topic of domestic violence.

Superintendent Sands explained that there are a number of abuses in relationships, especially intimate partner relationships.

“You have sexual abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse just to name a few because there are a number of them and persons in relationships need to be able to identify these kinds of abuse when they are occurring to seek help,” she said.

“When your partner is always criticizing your body, your church, always wanting to know how you are spending your money or making you beg for money, all of these are signs of abuse.”

She said too many are falling victims to the crime of domestic violence and “we have a number of persons who are dying because just last year we had about 79 murders and of that 17 were domestic related, so we really do have a problem.”

“We just want to encourage persons who are in these kinds of relationships to seek help for themselves and if they do not intend to leave the perpetrator then seek counselling for themselves, their partner (perpetrator of the abuse) and their children,” she said.

“According to research one of every four females will be abused and that is extremely high so members of the public need to be able to identify abuse.”

Sands explained that there are a number of signs to look out for in a person who may be being abused. Physical signs include bruising, physical scars, wearing long clothing when it is warm outside or big sun glasses to hide the signs of abuse. There are also emotional signs and behavioural changes that may indicate one is being abused, she said.

Noting that domestic violence is all about power and control, Sands said that perpetrators crave control over their victims.

“You have some persons who suffer from pathological jealously, who really cannot stand to have their mate’s out of their sight for a few second before accusing them of some wrong doing,” she said.

“If you go shopping, the perpetrator would ask why were you in the foodstore so long, what was it you had to buy that took you so long, things like that.”

Since the year 2000, the Royal Bahamas Police force have been training its officers to better deal with domestic violence cases, intervention and mediation.

According to Sands, once an incident of abuse is reported officers would interview couples separately, unless otherwise requested by the victim, to avoid intimidation.

Officers are also being trained to identify intimidation when called to investigate a domestic violence case.

Sharing her experience with domestic violence was Pastor Hyler, who ministered through personal testimony.

Hyler told attendees that as a result of what she went through in her life – 15 and one half years of abuse – she wrote a book titled, From Bondage to Victory.

“I know how important it is to raise awareness on this serious topic,” she said.

Passionate about addressing the societal ill, Hyler expressed her profound disappointment in the fact that certain influential individuals and organizations would not address these issues.

“My thing is that the church is too quiet about this topic and that is because too many pastors’ wives suffer from domestic violence,” she said.

“I think that pastors and even politicians need to get more involved in this and speaking out against it because it is prevalent is our society.”

Commending the efforts of Munnings to use her personal tragedy to build awareness, Hyler said that if pastors and politicians support her event like they should “it would have a greater impact on society.”

“I think it is important that persons come out and support this because we don’t know when it is going to knock on our door and that shouldn’t be,” she said.

During her tearful welcome address, Munnings said that ever since her sister’s death in 2005, she has memorialized her death to reach out to women and men who may be in abusive relationships or marriages to walk out and seek help before the situation turns deadly.

“My interest is to reach out to everyone who may be in need, because as a result of this service, only one person each year is saved, then my sister’s death would not have been in vain,” she said.

Next year I don’t want another person standing here because they lost a loved one. I need you standing here with me because you care, enough to make that difference.”