Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why Do Christian Husbands Abuse Their Wives - Final Part

5 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:34 PM

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Why Do Christian Husbands Abuse Their Wives - Final Part

Question: Dear Sir, my husband is a lay leader in a popular church in the Bahamas. We have been married for more than fifteen years and for the past five years he has become very abusive. He was first emotionally abusive, then physically abusive after he was chosen to serve in an outstanding church position. The church members do not believe that he is abusive because he is so "nice" and popular. The members often make me feel that I am the problem. Why do Christian men abuse their wives? Need help.

Answer: Previously, in part I and II of the answer to this question, I said that Christian men abuse their wives because they are allowed by society to do so. Men are not held accountable for their behavior. I also mentioned that another reason Christian men abuse their partners is that of a miss understanding and misuse of scripture.

There are at least fifteen kinds of abuse. The obvious ones are physical, emotional, verbal, child and sexual abuse. Those that we do not talk much about are: economic abuse - trying to keep the wife from getting or keeping a job, taking her money, denying her from having a say in how the money will be spent, making her ask for money; using male privilege - treating her like a servant, telling her what to do, acting like the "King of the castle"; intimidation - threatening gestures, actions, destroying property, making her fearful; isolation - controlling what she does, who she sees, talks to, and where she goes; elder abuse - children abusing their parents; ritualistic abuse - torture--beating, electrical shock, etc, engaging in ritualistic sexual acts, brainwashing against society, authority, etc. As mentioned is a previous article, the abuse that is most prevalent in our country and that one that is not talk about is RELIGIOUS ABUSE.

Let me share with you a story from the book Battered in Submission by James & Phyllis Alsdurf to illustrate the meaning of religious abuse. "Alice was only eight years old when she was sexually abused by her brother in an attic. Forty years later as she talked about that incident and the many which followed, she spoke through tears. "I passed out and when I came to I was lying like I was hung on a cross. I carried that burden myself, thinking it was my fault because of what I heard at church. The church was so powerful. The little girls sat down in front practically beneath the pulpit and the pastor always talked about hell, fire and brimstone, about harlots and adulterers. It always was the woman’s fault. I wished then that I’d been born a boy. They seemed to be favored. They had a chance to do to high school. I didn’t. My folks had insurance policies for my brothers, but not for the girls. Five weeks after marriage, her husband’s emotional and sexual abusiveness started. "Being in control was important to him. He would make comments about needing to break me like a horse." He didn’t want his family to think he wasn’t in control.

Alice blames the bulk of her husband’s problem on the strict religious environment in which both were raised. "It caused the problem in the first place. There was no expressing of emotions, especially for men. The church gave him the right to do everything he did. All we ever heard was that a woman has to be submissive. It never taught the next thing, that the husband is to love his wife as his own body. I never heard those verses in church. I didn’t even know they were in the Bible until I read them at home myself."

The following text often misused on Christian wives by their Christian husbands or enthusiastic pastors: Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife." Headship here dose not mean lordship, or rulership. It is exhibiting Christ lifestyle of gentleness, nurturing, compassion, caring, and empathy. Interestingly, we often call these feminine characteristics. Matthew 5:38, 39 "Turn the other cheek." This does not mean passivity for of the wife. In essence it is compassion and a willingness to live peaceably with all men. Ephesians 5:33 "The wife see that she reverence her husband." 1 Corinthians 7:4 "The wife hath not power over her own body . . ." 1 Timothy 2:11 "Let the woman learn silence with all subjection." Ephesians 5:24 "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in EVERYTHING." Ephesians 5:22 "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands." There are many more texts, but I think you got the idea.

The best way to explain these passages is by having a clear understanding of another Biblical passage found in 1 Corinthians 13, called the love passage of the Bible. If we are truly motivated by the right understanding of this text, then all others will fall into place. "Love is patient, kind, gentle. It is not rude, rough and crud." But when a well meaning, popular, "spirit-filled" pastor constantly talks about "submitting yourself to your husband," and not submit yourself to one another, the Biblical message is skewed. There is too much preaching about submission. There is too much preaching about headship. We need more emphasis on mutual submission. Then, and only then love will reign supreme, not power and control. Submission is not a requirement for developing relationships, it cannot be demanded or forced. Submission is a RESPONSE to nurture, care and love. Thus submission beget submission.

Guidelines For Sharing the Information On This Site
Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your personal use, friends, seminar, or meeting handout. You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary. Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-323 8772. Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved. Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist. P.O. Box N-896, Nassau, Bahamas. This Web page last modified: May 02, 2005 .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why do Christian Husbands Abuse Their wives? Part 2

0 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:29 PM

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Why do Christian Husbands Abuse Their wives? Part 2

Question: Dear Sir, my husband is a lay leader in a popular church in the Bahamas. We have been married for more than fifteen years and for the past five years he has become very abusive. He was first emotionally abusive, then physically abusive after he was chosen to serve in an outstanding church position. The church members do not believe that he is abusive because he is so "nice" and popular. The members often make me feel that I am the problem. Why do Christian men abuse their wives? Need help.

Answer: This is part II in response to this serious question. The fundamental reason for spouse abuse stems from belief in male dominance or gender hierarchy. It emerges out of the greed for power and control that began in heaven with Lucifer. Lucifer was jealous of God’s power and wanted more authority and recognition. What did he do? He began the first political campaign ever and convinced one third of the angles to vote for him. But it did not work. He was thrown out of heaven with his host of imps. This greed for power and control is very, very, very contagious. Satan had to find more converts outside of heaven. So he tried Eve and was successful. His strongest point of conviction was the issue of power and control. He convinced Eve that God was really lying when He said that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and Good and Evil. He also persuaded Eve that they would have MORE POWER and that she and her husband would actually be like God, but God did not want to tell her that. It worked! Yes it did!


This greed for power and control has revealed itself over the millenniums first through gender hierarchy, then slavery, racism, communism, totalitarianism, spouse abuse, incest, child abuse, murder, rape, etc. A basic assumption of all these forms of abuse is that one group of individuals feels it is superior to another group of individuals. Satan knew that if he could destroy the egalitarian plan of God for the family, eventually all other forms of abuse would follow. Thus, his campaign for supremacy would be successful. God himself stated in Genesis 3:16 very clearly that gender hierarchy was a direct result of sin with the words "and he (man) shall rule over you (woman)." This idea was not God’s plan. It was Satan’s strategy--a result of sin. "God created man (human beings) in His image. In His image God, created He him (human beings), male and female created He them." (Genesis 1:27). In addition, God gave Adam and Eve--both of them--dominance over the animals not over each other (Genesis 1:28). Clearly both Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Together they reflected God’s image. In essence, male dominance teaches that males were created in the image of God and females were created in the image of man. There are no Biblical texts or teachings that support the idea that Eve was to be subordinated to Adam. Jesus told his disciples: "When you see me you see the father . . . I and my father are one." This was to be the example of male/female relationship.


When Jesus came to earth almost two thousand years ago, He met a world infested with national prejudice, religious abuse, slavery, racism, and male dominance. He showed by His own lifestyle how we should treat each other. He was gentle, kind, nurturing, compassionate and loving. Jesus cried publicly at Lazarus grave side. In Christ’s day and even today, these expressions are considered emotionally weak and feminine and are not to be expressed by men. Jesus lifted the level of women from that of unimportance and inferiority to that of great prominence and equality.

One of the most effective ways that greed for power and control has reigned supreme is through religious abuse. This was demonstrated through the dark ages when emperors, kings and religious leaders slaughtered millions of Christians---non-Protestants were superior to Protestants. Its ugly head was again revealed during the holocaust, when millions of Jews were killed---Germans were superior to Jews. In the past two years, we have seen it in Bosnian, Kosova, and Rwanda---one tribe superior to another.


We have learned that religious abuse, a form of emotional/psychological abuse, is a way many Christian Bahamian men abuse their partners. Religious abuse occurs when someone makes you feel that it is your Christian duty to stay in an abusive relationship. It is using texts out of context to perpetuate domestic abuse, to encourage a partner to be submissive to an abusive mate. It is also when a husband constantly reminds his wife about her "Christian duty" to be submissive and to respect him as the head of the house, and placing himself as "king of the castle."

Our Bahamian society is poisoned with the venomous sap of family abuse. How could a "Christian nation" be so poisoned, so sinful, and wretched? In reality, the churches have laid the foundation for such abusive behavior. The church is powerful. It has preached submission to husbands "no matter what." The church has taught that reconciliation is staying with an abusive partner because "a gentle, Christlike, meek spirit will win him over." It has taught that Christian forgiveness means returning to a threatening, dangerous relationship. It has kept quiet in a world which resonates with cries of abused women and children. It has denied, covered-up, and minimized the abuse of church leaders, and other Christian men, thus demanding no accountability, no change. Who has to change? It is always the woman. In reality this is not ministry of reconciliation. Christian Psychologist, James Alsdurf says "The church is called to bind up the bruises of women who have suffered not only form the violence of their spouses, but also from the passive violence of a church which has failed to recognize their situation and intervene on their behalf." It is time to teach that true reconciliation and healing can occur only after the spouse separates from an abusive partner, the police are called, and he is held accountable for his behavior.

The prophet Ezekiel gives a timely message to pastors and church leaders today. He gives a warning to those who have been appointed to "take care of the flock" and who have failed in their responsibilities. Ezekiel does not mince words: "You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured . . . You have ruled harshly and brutally" (Ezekiel 34:4). "And, because of such harsh rule, because of the dismissal of the plight and pain of the sheep, because of the complicity of the shepherds (pastors) with evil, "I am against the shepherds (pastors) and will hold them accountable for my flock, I will remove them from tending the flock." (Verse 10)

If you are a pastor who would like learn more about he dynamics of abuse or hurting person in need of help, or you have request for counseling, write to P.O. Box N 896, Nassau, Bahamas or Email: , or call 242 393 2818

Guidelines For Sharing the Information On This Site
Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your personal use, friends, seminar, or meeting handout. You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary. Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-323 8772. Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved. Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist. P.O. Box N-896, Nassau, Bahamas. This Web page last modified: May 02, 2005 .

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why do Christian Husbands Abuse Their Wives?- Part One

19 comments Posted by Hannah at 8:11 PM

Link to buy book

Why do Christian Husbands Abuse Their Wives?- Part One

Question: Dear Sir, my husband is a leader in a popular church in the Bahamas. We have been married for more than fifteen years and for the past five years he has become very abusive. He was first emotionally abusive, then physically abusive after he was chosen to serve in an outstanding church position. The church members do not believe that he is abusive because he is so "nice" and popular. The members often make me feel that I am the problem. Why do Christian men abuse their wives? Need help.

Answer: Dear Friend, Christian men physically and emotional abuse their wives because of several reasons. The first reason is that they can. Yes, generally men are taught that it is all right to be rough and mean, including those men who are spiritual leaders. Society has allowed men to be abusive to their wives and families. When we hear of a man abusing his wife, often the question is asked of the women "what did you do to make him get so mad?" Or "You need to be more understanding of your husband." Even when a woman is being physically or emotional abusive toward her husband/partner she is made to believe that she is in the wrong and not her husband. Women are to be quiet, soft, sweet, gentle, passive. Men are indirectly and directly encouraged by their mothers and fathers to always be in charge and in control of situations. Bahamian wives are taught to brush aside any aggressive behavior of their husbands, and accept it as normal. This behavior usually grows into patterns of physical and/or emotional abuse. In other words, we excuse the loud, boisterous, cold behavior of men. We support the idea the men must have an outlet for their energy. In fact, women are often told to "feed their husband’s egos." Usually, it is in essence adding fuel to the fire. The egos of men are often fed so well by ignorant, submissive wives, that their husbands have become overweight, angry, savage beasts. Men who are overweight with an inflated ego, greedy for power and control. It is now time that wives put their husband ego on a diet, a diet of humility and compassion. Unfortunately, I have discovered through my counseling experience and research, generally Christian men become more abusive, aggressive, and greedy for power after they claim to have had a "spiritual renewal" or a "re-commitment" to Jesus.

This leads me to another key reason Christian men are abusing their wives. For many men Christianity seem to encourage abuse against women and children. Wife abuse. The Christian home. Two terms that should be mutually exclusive. Tragically, however, they are not. Why? No single denomination is immune from this painful scourge. Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Presbyterians, Church of God, Methodists, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventists, Charismatic, Conservatives, and Liberals, all have suffered and will continue to suffer from this dilemma of family abuse we call domestic violence. Wife abuse doesn’t occur just in families in which husbands are unsaved or alcoholics, where mothers work outside the home or couples are only nominally Christians. Many abused women are married to church leaders, deacons, or pastors. For years in the Bahamas we have heard many stories about men and Christian leaders hurting their family members. Uncles are raping nieces, father are molesting daughters, husbands are beating wives. We are together to blame to for the ongoing onslaught of these behaviors because we have refused to deal with them. We have often covered them up to avoid "embarrassment and shame" or to save the "reputation of the man." Meanwhile, we are losing the reputation of our churches, local communities, and country. Shame. Shame.

What, in these Christian homes, was conducive to abuse? Outstanding researchers Christy Telch and Coral Linquist give an important clue. "They learned that violent couples "have more stereotyped sex-role attitudes and more traditional views of marriage." They stated that "when a very legalistic, highly traditional world view is adopted by men who have ‘exaggerated needs for dominance vis-รก-vis their wives, poor verbal skills to enable them establish such dominance, poor access to their emotions, exaggerated anxiety about relationship issues,’ and difficulty with intimacy, such factors can provide fertile ground for the emergence of violent behavior. In other words, Telch and Linquist support my own findings that men who believe in strong traditional families values are more abusive to their partners and family members. This behavior is fortified by preaching that accepts all sorts of cultural assumptions about what "headship" means. There is a use of scriptures as ammunition for their misuse power. In those circles where wives are taught to submit blindly to their husbands’ every deed and word, where ministers peach strongly against divorce without consideration for the circumstances involved, and where dominance by the husband is seen as his "divine right" and responsibility, the sin of wife abuse can exist unchecked, say James and Phyllis Alsdurf in their book Battered in Submission.

I have worked with Christian leaders, pastors, and lay persons from many denominations and the stories and excruciating. John, an adult son of a deceased Christian pastor, with tears, told his painful story at a prayer support group I conducted. His father was an outstanding, well-respected minister and church administrator for about 45 years. However, he habitually sexually molested all of his children, including the son, and physically and emotionally abused his wife. John indicated that no one knew about their pain, it was a family secreted. They were constantly threatened to keep it a secret. His father was protected by the church and he had two personalities: warm and affectionate in public, and cruel and mean in the home. I have discovered that the reason we do not hear about abuse conducted by whom I believe are who most abusive individuals in society (church leaders, pastors, business executives, police officers) because these persons are in position to cover it up and we help them do it. If you could look inside of all homes in the Bahamas today, I am sure you will find that those suffering from the most abuse are those professed to be Christian homes.

Wake up Bahamas, wake up men. Let us cry out against the abuse. Let us stop covering up. Victims who are Christians often stay in abusive relationships because Scriptures, that are quoted and interpreted from the pulpit, seemingly give them no other option.

Guidelines For Sharing the Information On This Site
Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your personal use, friends, seminar, or meeting handout. You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary. Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-323 8772. Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved. Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist. P.O. Box N-896, Nassau, Bahamas. This Web page last modified: May 02, 2005 .

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sanctity of Marriage vs. Sanctity of Life

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 3:30 PM

Have pity on me, O God, for I am in distress

with sorrow my eye is consumed;

my soul also, and my body.

I am like a dish that is broken...

But my trust is in you, O God;

I say, 'You are my God'

--Psalms 31:10-15

The feeling of cool cream cover-up. The dull ache of silky blank powder patted upon the first layer, making sure the bruise does not show. The eye make-up applied so as not to disrupt the artificial dust on the skin. You must be artistic about your creation.

Countless Christian women regularly go through this cosmetic process on their way to church on Sunday morning. They are trying to hide bruises inflicted upon them by their Christian husbands.

It is not a nice thought for anyone, and, regrettably, some pastors deal with domestic violence by using a little "cover-up" in their congregations rather than dealing with the problem. Sometimes preserving the marriage is placed above the life and safety of the abused woman. What would Jesus say?

By turning a blind eye to abused women who desperately need Godly help, love and compassion, pastors send these women straight into the arms of a secular world that can and will provide that comfort. Is it wise to alienate them from the love of the Church and of God?

The Rev. Al Miles has written multiple books on the subject of domestic violence in the Church, including Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Should Know and Violence In Families: What Every Christian Needs to Know. Miles says his professional experience working with members of the Christian faith -- his goal is to prevent and intervene in situations of violence against women and children -- is that many Christian clergy and congregation members have been poor allies for victims.

"We continue to deny the prevalence of [domestic violence], especially within our own faith groups and among couples worshiping in our churches," he writes. "We refuse to seek the necessary training to help us effectively care for victims and confront perpetrators. We even fail to talk about or acknowledge the fact that some of our own male colleagues are, themselves, abusers."

Personally, I have heard tales of pastors and other religious orders telling women to forgive their abusive husbands and return home. These women must be protected instead and abusive Christian men held accountable for their behaviors. After all, if a Christian woman can't trust her own pastor to help, who can she trust?

It seems to me the apparent ignorance regarding domestic violence is the result of several factors:

1. Since it is not seen as a spiritual problem, some clergy do not understand or attempt to understand it.

2. Some pastors fail to step out of their safety zone.

3. Church leaders are so busy they don't have time to get into the lives of the people in their congregation.

4. Even though some pastors might know abuse is happening, they might not have specific answers to solve it, and therefore avoid involvement.

Terrance R. Trites, a 20-year clergy member of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, has volunteered in various communities with agencies supporting victims of domestic violence, principally women. He has worked in addiction treatment for seven years. Currently, along with a part-time church ministry, he works as a facilitator of programs for men who are or have been abusive in their intimate relationships. Additionally, Trites has been a foster parent for 22 years and has worked with children who have been victims of abuse as well as families who are abusive.

"I would hope that even when the marriage doesn't work out, we wouldn't blame the victim," Trites says. "I would seek to find or offer ways for the victim to rebuild her own life and remain part of any organizations [such as the church] she would choose. Despite some attitudes within some churches, I believe the victim should suffer no shame for either the abuse or the breakdown of the marriage."

In the event an abused sheep is unable to go to her shepherd for protection, others in the world can and will provide it. Nancy Sauer, a Christian woman working for Advocates for Family Peace -- a secular office -- says her program has much to offer.

"I see too many fundamentalist churches turning away from the wisdom and experience that is offered," she says. "A pastor recently told me, `We sure have heard a lot of horror stories about the Advocates office.' I, in turn, said that I have heard a lot of horror stories about the Christian community."

Sauer says one of her goals in educating churches is to teach them how to help a family caught in the web of domestic violence -- for example, knowing the resources in their community, setting up possible safe homes in their own church community, and coming alongside the abuser as well as the woman and her children. Accountability for the abuser and separation until the violence stops are two principles she encourages. "Too many times the sanctity of the marriage is put before the sanctity of life," she explains.

As difficult as it is, Sauer says we must hold abusers accountable for their sins. To do so requires hard work and arming ourselves with a new education in domestic violence to fight the growing battle of abuse within church walls.

Mary C. Ross is a New Jersey-based freelance writer for several different publishers, including Point of View, Krause and Harris, as well as numerous newspapers. Although Ross primarily works in secular journalism, she is a Christian woman who suffered 17 years of domestic abuse. Contact Ross at

Saturday, August 05, 2006

On Domestic Violence.........

2 comments Posted by Hannah at 10:21 PM

There are many definitions of Domestic Violence, and there’s much that is true in all of them. At the same time, there’s something that’s usually left out.

Domestic Violence…Violence that occurs in the place, in the context of what should be someone’s home. Violence that happens at what should be a place of refuge, a safe harbor away from the troubles and problems that surround us. It’s almost blasphemous when a place that should be a sanctuary instead becomes a battlefield, a place of danger, a prison of the spirit, an ongoing nightmare.

When there’s domestic violence there’s victimization, there’s a lack of humanity, and that’s shameful. One person who’s in some way stronger aggressively uses that strength to dominate, to control, to turn other people into things, objects that exist only for the abuser’s purpose. A home can become a place where the focus is on power, and control, and manipulation. That’s evil.

That’s not love, and it makes a mockery of even the idea of love. It’s thirst for power, it’s domination, it’s acting in a way that brings evil into the lives of other people.

Usually, domestic violence is talked about as if it always involves adults living together, with or without marriage. In my view, domestic violence is much broader than that. Domestic violence occurs whenever one member of a family uses force as part of a need to control and dominate another. It’s domestic violence when a husband rapes his wife. It’s domestic violence when someone has to live in fear of being beaten. It’s domestic violence when there’s incest or physical abuse or child neglect. It’s domestic violence when one child in a family attacks another. It’s domestic violence when a grown child attacks an elderly parent. It’s domestic violence when a teen-ager assaults a parent. It’s domestic violence whenever one person uses power to attack and control another person.

Where there’s domestic violence there’s a chilling of the soul, a kind of slow dying that infects all within that household. Where there’s domestic violence there’s a kind of death of the spirit.

When someone is the object being attacked, there’s often an attempt to change, hoping that somehow the violence can be held at bay if only everything possible is done to appease the abuser. Sadly, that’s not the case. The power over another that’s experienced can be almost like a narcotic, becoming more and more needed the more it’s used.

I have absolutely no doubt that God does not want us to live in an atmosphere of fear, of violence, of disrespect, of abuse. God instead calls us to love, a love that binds us to him and to one another. A love that brings life and calls us forth into being all that we can be for one another.

We are people who are called to live in relationship with other human beings, not members of a pack where one animal has to dominate all the others. We are people who are called to live as human beings, to touch that which is best in the human spirit, and to invite that forth from others around us.

There are many excuses and rationalizations used for different types of domestic violence.

I know that there are ethnic groups and cultures who see assault and battery as not that big a deal if it happens within a family. At the same time there may be a claim of being highly religious, of being proud of a cultural heritage. Over time an ethnic group can become blind to a scandal. It’s possible to lose a sense of shame for what truly is shameful. As painful as it can be to drop the rationalizations, to admit the truth, to stop being accomplices in criminal behavior, how else can deeds of darkness be brought into the light? How else can an ethnic group live up to what is truly best in its heritage?

I know that there are many who have seen domestic violence as something approved or even mandated by God. I’ve heard passages from Scripture used to justify attacks on wives or children. Passages that reflect the culture of another time, or that are taken out of context, or that are misunderstood and viewed with abuse-colored glasses. The Bible has been used in many ways in history to gloss over great evils, and using Scripture to justify domestic violence is one of them. There are times when God must weep bitter tears over what is done by those who say they follow him.

I’ve heard of clergy telling people being abused to remain in the situation for the sake of the marriage, or tell children that if they were only better behaved they would not be beaten. I’ve even heard sexual abuse described as "making love" when it is the exact opposite.

All the justifications are lies and distortions, no matter where they come from. Domestic violence is about the abuse of power and it’s about treating other people as things. It’s about my emotion of anger being more important than another person’s right to live in safety. It’s about having a role in a family and using that as a cover for a need to dominate others.

Domestic violence is against faith, and God, and the meaning of love. Simply put, no Scripture can be used to justify domestic violence. No sacrament can be used as a reason to allow it to go on. And nothing can be expected to change for a family as long as the very air that is breathed is filled with fear.

Obviously, I can’t speak for all Churches. I can say that the Catholic Church has made the commitment to do all that it can to help a marriage where there’s violence to be healed. But first, there has to be safety—get out, get safe, and then we can talk. And remember that the longer there’s violence in a relationship the less chance there is that things can be turned around.

We hear a lot about parent rights and "family values." Well, to me a parent abandons the role of parent, and gives up rights that flow from it, when a child is neglected or physically or sexually abused. And the child has every right to call upon the larger community for help, for protection, for sanctuary.

How can the community of faith help those caught up in the cycle of domestic violence? First, by helping to make contact with resources that are already available, for counseling, for shelter, for legal help. Second, we can help by standing with those who have been abused. Third, we can help by proclaiming the truth that domestic violence is wrong and must not be allowed to continue.

To turn our eyes and walk away is a scandal, it’s unchristian, and it’s wrong. For times that has happened in the past, leaders in the Church and the entire community of faith can only beg forgiveness. Together, we can decide that things must be different. We can decide that "No more shall it be the way it’s been in the past."

To echo the words of the American bishops, the cry for help from the abused must be heard. Those who have been wounded must be helped to again walk in the light with dignity and respect. And no one must feel that they ever have to walk alone.

Many times people who’ve been abused ask, with a kind of raw pain that arises from deep within, "Where was God? Where is he now?"

My answer has always been, "God is here now, and he was there then, touching your pain and agony." I then add my own question and challenge, "Where was the community of faith, those who said that they believed in God?" "Where is the community of faith today?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jewish Scene - Dying for Divorce

1 comments Posted by Hannah at 9:58 AM

Dying for a divorce

M. wanted a get, but for six long years the rabbinical court chose to believe her abusive husband. Last week she committed suicide By: Miriam Goldfisher

Last week, Jerusalemite M. jumped to her death. Her body lay on the street, as her horrified neighbors gathered outside to observe the tragic end of M.’s misery, which began when she married her husband, eighteen years ago.

M. had initially requested a divorce six years ago. She had had enough of the violence and the humiliation, but her husband refused to provide a get (religious divorce papers). During six years of proceedings at the rabbinical court, the judges declined to force the recalcitrant husband to divorce his suffering wife.

Meanwhile, M.’s husband continued to physically and verbally abuse her. Although the neighbors were aware of what went on in the couple’s home, no one dared to interfere. In the haredi neighborhood where the couple lived with their four children, the unspoken rules were sacred: Don’t involve the police, and don’t air your dirty laundry in public.

Rare strength

However, when the violence became unbearable, M. found the strength to overcome haredi social norms and submitted a complaint to the police. Welfare Agency workers arrived to handle the case and submitted a comprehensive report, which included details of the emotional abuse endured by M. and her children, to the rabbinical court. In addition, welfare officials recommended that the parents be assessed, but the evaluation never took place.

Furthermore, the report asserted that since the children were negatively affected by their parents’ cohabitation, the couple should separate, and the wife should be granted a divorce.

The husband claimed that M. did not know what she really wanted and that she was emotionally unstable. He also insisted that a divorce would harm the children’s marriage prospects and that the daughter would not be accepted to the school of her choice.

Forced agreement

At one point, the husband managed to get M. to sign a “shalom bayit” (“domestic peace”) agreement, which obligated her to go to the mikvah (ritual pool in which a woman must immerse approximately once a month in order for marital relations to resume) against her will and “to remain calm at home and to clean from the morning until the night”.

Moreover, he coerced M. to consent to a clause which specified that she must appear at the rabbinic court without legal representation.

As a result, M. was required to prove to the court that she was mentally competent and that she did, in fact, wish to divorce her husband. M. even submitted professional testimonials to the court, but the judges preferred to side with the husband, who maintained that only he knew what was in his wife’s best interest.

Finally, after six long years of suffering and torment, M. could no longer stomach the pain and degradation, and she jumped to her death.

Miriam Goldfisher is a rabbinic pleader
(08.06.06, 15:12)

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