Today the government announced that they want to teach school children, from the age of five, how to prevent abusive relationships. Some of you might find this a little alarming.
The statistics on domestic violence may surprise you:
1 in 4 women will suffer from domestic violence at some point in their lives. (British Crime Survey 1998)
Two women a week are killed by their partners/ex partners
Each year 45% of female homicide victims are killed by present or former partners. (British Crime Survey 1996)
The chances of a child being hit is 4-9 times higher where there is adult violence ( Moffit and Caspi 1998)
These are alarming figures aren’t they? Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that just because you’re in church these figures don’t apply- THEY STILL DO!
Domestic abuse doesn’t just come in the form of the obvious physical or sexual, it can be far more subtle. Here are some other ways that inappropriate power and control can manifest itself:
Emotional: putting her down, making her feel bad about herself, playing mind games, humiliating her, making her feel guilty
Minimising or denying the blame: not taking her concerns seriously, shifting responsibility or saying she caused it
Using children: using the children to relay messages, threatening to take them away
Using male privilege: treating her like a servant, making the big decisions, being the one to define men’s and women’s roles
Using economical abuse: preventing her from getting or keeping a job, asking her for money, taking her money, not letting her have access or know about family income
Using threats: threatening to hurt her, leave her, commit suicide, report her to welfare or making her do illegal things.
Using intimidation: making her afraid by using looks, actions or gestures, smashing things, destroying her property, abusing pets, displaying weapons.
If any of these things ring alarm bells for you or someone you know, be very careful how you handle the situation. If there are just a few minor areas of concern it may be appropriate to talk it over as a couple and /or seek the advise of a trusted friend or minister. Where there is more serious behaviour, confronting the perpetrator can actually make matters worse. It might be more beneficial to encourage the person concerned (I mean the victim here) to seek confidential, professional help from a trained counsellor such as those with Relate, Respect or Women’s Aid. See below for contact numbers.
For many men and women, the verse in Ephesians 5 ‘wives submit to your husbands’ can be misinterpreted. It does not mean you have to suffer any of the behaviour mentioned above. Let’s look at the verses in context to see what Paul really meant.
22: ‘Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’
23: ‘Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husband ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.’
In a nutshell, Paul describes a relationship where the wife submits to a husband who loves, cherishes and respects her. The instruction is clear to husbands to love their wives in a self sacrificial way, not with an abuse of power or control. When Paul’s instruction is followed, the wife can then love, respect and admire her husband.
I truly hope this hasn’t been too heavy for you girls. This month I have come across two relationships in church where some kind of abuse is occurring. Both women thought it couldn’t happen to them because they were with a Christian husband. My heart is to make you aware of God’s desire for you in relationships. You are worth so much in his eyes, (he even sees us without wrinkles, I love that bit!) you deserve the love of a man who values your contribution to the relationship, where there is equality, shared responsibility, trust and support. Next time we’ll look at what makes a really great relationship.
If you have any concerns and want to discuss them with me please get in touch via the Activate website.
Relate Response: 0300 100 1234
Respect Phoneline: 0845 122 8609
Women’s Aid: see your local phone directory