This question has long been a maelstrom for victims of domestic violence who are determined to seek and remain in God’s will for their lives, yet wander around to find an acceptable way out of their terror-filled relationship. Unfortunately, the related confusion has cost many their lives before they could find an answer. Last year we saw news reports of the first American woman, Connie Culp, to receive a face transplant, which came as a result of intimate partner violence.
In addition to the younger victims, there is a multitude of women 55 years of age and older who are victims of domestic violence and/or spousal abuse. Many abuse agencies are reporting that a larger percentage of victims are in this group. Homeless shelters are now finding a growing number of the homeless they house to be in this category, as well. Many older women are either choosing, or are forced by circumstances, to live on the street as a result of domestic/intimate partner violence.
This is a sad state of affairs. These women are part of a generation who were commonly raised to keep silent, bathed in guilt and shame, assured they had failed if they left. Some of these women never worked outside the home, never got credit for any social security payments, had grocery and gas money doled out to them, and were looked down upon for choosing to dedicate their lives to being stay-at-home moms. These women are faithful to study their Bible, pray and attend their house of worship, giving faithfully of their time and energy, and as much of their money as they are allowed, or can sneak, to give. Some broke the glass ceiling and went out to find a profession, but societal stigma still held its reins on them. I was one of those women.
From my own personal experience, while religion played a huge part in keeping me in an abusive marriage, it was my faith that empowered me to leave and find liberation. Many argue that religion and faith are one and the same, but I respectfully stand my ground that they are no more the same than church and organized religion. (Some may “get” that, others may not)
After years of verbal and emotional abuse that finally escalated into physical violence, I began asking God which one He would be less critical of. Would He be more grieved if I ended my marriage, or if my marriage ended my life? If divorce was a sin, could I not ask and receive forgiveness? But, I did not want to believe that being quite dead and leaving two small children without parents could possibly be His best answer. I see so often in the news these days the reports of murder/suicide ending tumultuous relationships. The precious young ones are suddenly left in a world of total confusion. Who will care for them? Where will they live? Worse yet, were they among the murdered?
With great respect I would ask the church to take the whole picture into consideration. We tend to limit the size and shape of boxes we place Christ/God into, and there has been a blanket edict from religious leaders that divorce is never an option. Would we rather clean up the mess of a murder, or worse, another murder/suicide?
Please understand me. Domestic violence is like a chess game. As a victim, I found that I had to be thinking at least two steps ahead of my abuser. When you are dealing with acute depression or hiding from possible physical attack, the chances of staying on top of the game are slim to none. Our pews are filled with just such victims and survivors, struggling to find a life worth living. We preach it, but we must take it one step further, and learn the skills to be able to lead these victims in the path where they can have their faith, hope and dignity restored…where they can find that life truly is worth living.
While I do not intend to make this a debate about scriptural exceptions or acceptances, I do strongly recommend that all clergy consider joining hands with experts and victims in an effort to find resolve in this area. Perhaps it is time to look to the findings that have been made by secular agencies to get a clearer picture of what we are truly up against. We must be trained to recognize the fact pastors’ wives are not excluded from abuse. We can’t hide behind Bibles or in pews, turning a blind eye to women sitting in our midst wearing an arm in a sling, explaining it away as simply tripping, or perhaps putting on an extra-heavy coat of makeup to cover the black eye received for failure to have dinner ready at just the right time.
It is time to sound a clarion call. Far too many women are being battered, or worse. These women are somebody’s mother, and sadly enough, somebody’s grandmother. Can we work collaboratively with experts outside the church to fight this battle and win even a small victory in this area? Are we not all redeemed – released, liberated, emancipated, rescued – all synonyms for redemption. Are we willing to listen to others who believe in faith-based resolve without trying to take the camel through the needle’s eye, becoming able to set aside legalism and save lives?
- Oklahoma Currently Ranked # 15 in Domestic Violence (oklahomawomen.blogspot.com)
- Domestic violence deaths on the rise (bendbulletin.com)
- What is Domestic Violence? How Do I Get Out? (cshennecy.wordpress.com)