Crosswalk.com - Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too: "Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too
Turning the Other Cheek: Domestic Violence Touches Christian Women Too
"It has been 11 years since my ex-husband last beat me," says Ginny H. "Funny how we never forget the last time. We who have suffered spousal abuse remember distinctly the first and the last times we were hit, punched, kicked, shoved, or otherwise physically and/or verbally and emotionally assaulted. To this day I wrestle with after-effects of his abuse. But healing has come. Bit by bit and piece by piece, I have been reclaiming what abuse had taken from me."
Ginny is a Christian. And she is not alone.
"We are very aware that our Christian leaders are abusing their wives and abusing women," says Winnie Bartel, chair of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) women's commission.
At its 11th General Assembly in Malaysia, the WEF, which represents 160 million Christians in 110 countries, released a report showing that incidents of violence against women are nearly as bad in church circles as in wider society.
In a strongly worded statement, WEF called upon the Church "to denounce abuse from the pulpit, to protect and provide for those in need of safety, to offer healing for victims, and to admonish offenders."
Co-author of the book "No Place for Abuse," Bartel says, "I am thrilled that WEF is taking the issue of abuse seriously. Henceforth, we'll make a difference. And it should be a radical difference."
Bartel herself was sexually abused as a child by a deacon in her church, which was covered up. Instead of turning against the church, Bartel says she found healing through true Christian love and grace - particularly when male members of WEF acknowledged her and many other women's pain and suffering at the last General Assembly.
"If more male leaders took a stand and went to bat on this issue," Bartel adds, "it might have a great influence on their peers and create a sense of accountability that's missing."
The national statistics are alarming. Women of ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) cite that 30 to 50 percent of women seeking help for themselves in hospital emergency rooms are victims of abuse. Twenty to 30 percent of adult women are at risk of being abused by their male partners during the course of marriage.
According to My Sister's Keeper International, domestic violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and financial abuse that occurs between people in an intimate relationship. The group was organized for "the purpose of responding to the silent cries of our suffering sisters, including women of all faiths."
Among the ways that My Sister's Keeper reaches out is by raising awareness of the problem of domestic violence in all communities, including religious groups, and by encouraging all communities, including religious groups, to get involved in breaking the cycle of violence through education and training.
They also provide Godly guidance and practical assistance to the victim for a victorious life and urge batterers to attend recovery programs for their own healing.
My Sister's Keeper agrees that Christians are not exempt from domestic violence. They cite a landmark Minnesota case "revealing a chilling story of domestic violence in a Christian family. Lucille Tisland, described as a devout Christian woman, and her five children, were found to be the subjects of constant physical and emotional beatings by her pulpit-pounding preacher-husband for more than 13 years."
In many instances, Christian women stay in dangerous situations longer than a non-Christian might. According to Lois Pruneau, co-coordinator of the domestic violence department of the Family Support Council in the Lake Tahoe area: "A lot of our domestic violence victims that are of a certain faith say their marriage vows are very important to them and they don't know what to do when they're being battered in that marriage."
One woman is battered every 15 seconds in this country, Pruneau adds. "And some Christian women say they feel their abuse is a consequence of their own behavior, and that's why God isn't protecting them."
Nancy Nason-Clark, a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick, says on her Web site there are many reasons why women don't leave, or for them to return: The inability to see any other option; fear of reprisal; economic dependency, and a feeling that leaving would mean breaking their wedding vows. "This may be a particular issue for women of faith," Nason-Clark writes.
Other women cite fear - fear that the abuser would follow "and kill me" - as well as the Biblical instruction to turn the other cheek. They also misunderstand Paul's command to submit to a husband's authority.
Joyce Williams-Mitchell, a veteran battered-women's advocate and a member of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass told The Boston Herald, "Churches should remember that the pressure to keep up appearances within a congregation can make it harder for a woman to leave a violent situation.
"If it's difficult for people who aren't in faith communities," said Williams-Mitchell, "how much more difficult it is for people who are?''
By Janet Chismar, Religion Today
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