Friday, December 05, 2008

Religion can play role in domestic abuse

Posted by Hannah at 7:40 PM

The wrote a really good story on how religion can play a NOT so good role when it comes to domestic violence.

Religion can play role in domestic abuse
By Mike Ford, The Delphos Herald
Published: Saturday, November 15, 2008 Print E-mail By MIKE FORD
The Delphos Herald

Christian churches are a staple of many communities across the region and the nation. They provide valuable moral guidance, support and social services.

However, the religion can have a negative psychological affect when a person who never feels “good enough” is caught in a cycle of “sinning,” repenting and praying for forgiveness only to “beat themselves up” for repeating the cycle. Regardless of how bad the behavior really is, the guilt and shame can be perpetuated by religious beliefs and manipulated by an abusive spouse.

The Delphos Public Library will host a talk on the subject at 6:30 p.m. Monday by Kathy Boaz, the director of Van Wert Crisis Care. She oversees a 20-bed shelter where abused women can stay for 90 days while transitioning out of an unhealthy relationship, if they choose to not return to it. She says there are several ways religion can be harmful, including denial.

“A lot of times, the church may not welcome discussion. I know a woman whose church does not want to believe she’s in an abusive relationship because they know him and think he’s a very nice, likable guy. Well, he is a very nice, likable guy. However, in the home, you have other things that do take place and, sometimes, a church doesn’t want to face the situation and this makes it hard for the wife to come forward. It’s a very taboo subject that nobody wants to talk about and the women are afraid of being ostracized in church,” she said.

When a husband with control issues uses his wife’s religious beliefs against her, he can gain further control over her. She may feel as though God will withhold approval if she fails to submit to her husband’s “authority” as God’s “head” of the household. Boaz says this can prohibit her from giving herself permission to leave the abusive relationship.

“They feel like they need permission to leave and they don’t get it sometimes. I know a woman who got very upset with her pastor. She said ‘wait a minute; I’m the victim and you’re making me feel like it’s all my fault.’ That made it very difficult for her to go back to that church and sit under that pastor,” she said.
An unhealthy approach to religion can reinforce a person’s poor self-esteem by placing a heavy emphasis on performance, which can contribute to a co-dependent dynamic in the home.

“When a woman is in an abusive relationship, there is almost always some form of co-dependence that hinders her recovery process. It becomes very difficult for her to separate from him; I call it a ‘soul tie.’ The two have a deep bond and she feels very attached, or tied, to him. That tie isn’t usually broken when she leaves the relationship and most people don’t even know they need to break a soul tie. Then, they go on to repeat their behaviors by gravitating toward the same type of man because the soul tie was never broken. This is why women will look for the same type of man they just left. They’re conditioned to it and it’s familiar; it seems normal to them,” she said.

Not only does this factor in for the individual but it often spreads to children.
“What we often see at the shelter is second and third generation of abused women - it’s normal to them. A woman may not even recognize it as abuse because it may not be as bad as what her mother went through,” she said.

Boaz also says many abused women become confused and “don’t even know who to listen to anymore.” However, the confusion is not limited to domestic violence.
“Everything has a ‘voice.’ Everything in your life speaks to you and you have to permit yourself to take control over who you allow to speak to you and who you’re going to listen to. By the time women come to us, they have the self-talk in their head, the voices of friends and the voices of family members. Everybody is telling them what they should do. It drowns out the sound of their own voice and they need to be able to just be quiet so they can sort through things and find their own voice again,” she said.

Boaz says breaking destructive cycles requires a great deal of effort to overcome one’s conditioning.

“You have to radically change paths if you want to truly be free. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it will require effort to make a change because it won’t seem natural. You’re conditioned to bad habits and patterns. You have to change your thought patterns. You have to make different choices concerning your surroundings and the people you allow to be around you in order to get a different outcome. If you keep doing the same things, you’ll keep getting the same results. You have to take control over your conditioning and that’s not easy,” she said.

Religion does play a role in domestic violence, and I hope that more churches educate themselves so they don't play the wrong one.

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Anonymous said...

I am the (former) DH reporter who wrote that story. I brought my religious background to it, having gone through the very difficult work of reprogramming to heal from spiritually-abusive doctrine. I also had studied the matter of spiritual abuse in college, when I read "the subtle power of spiritual abuse" in one of my sociology courses in college. Follow my more extensive written work at - Mike

Anonymous said...

Thanks for picking up this story. I googled my name with that of my former employer and found this blog. I was a reporter in Delphos for more than seven years and wrote a lot of significant stories like this one. I'm glad you appreciate it. - Mike

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