Domestic abuse – hidden violence
When it comes to social justice the Church is pretty good at recognising issues of hunger, water needs, child support, deportation issues or prisoner reform. However, domestic abuse seems to be a subject we just don’t talk about, and therefore its significance to relationships, families and society goes under the radar. However, the scale and impact of this hidden form of violence is huge. Just look at the statistics:
- Worldwide one in three women have experienced psychological abuse from a current or former partner (the most common form of abuse).
- Worldwide, 40 to 70% of female murder victims were killed by a partner or former partner (compared to 4-8% of male murder victims).
- In the UK, two women a week are murdered by a current or former partner.
- It is estimated that 2 million adults experience domestic abuse each year.
On top of the physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse, it is a significant contributor to the poverty of victims and their children. The social and economic cost to the UK of domestic abuse is £34,000 per victim or £66 billion per year.
The UK Government has taken this issue so seriously it is looking to pass primary legislation that will transform the law in this area – The Domestic Abuse Bill.
So where is the outcry from the Church? It is there in part; you can hear it in places, particularly the established Church, from Archbishop Welby and Bishop Treweek who have started to address the issue, but in the non-aligned Church the silence is alarming. Why is this?
In large part it is because the problem is so hard to see – and to believe. Bishop Treweek has recently spoken to the House of Lords of the numerous occasions when victims say they their abuse was just not believed. This is common for survivors. Abusers are usually masters of manipulation, so friends of the couple see only the ‘honeymoon’ side of the abuser and nothing else. The story of abuse in consequence appears unbelievable.
Alternatively, confidants just cannot believe that it could happen in their community, friendship circle or especially church. Research conducted by the charity Restored in 2018 revealed that 71% of church-goers believed abuse happened in the community (out there) but only 38% believed it was a problem in the Church (in here). Yet the same survey showed that 1 in 4 women* within the Christian church had experienced at least one abusive act in a current relationship, rising to 42% if previous relationships were included.
So, the problem is very much in our own stable (#inchurchtoo).
Our first task is to accept that fact. Micah 6:8 reads “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Next week we will look at some of the ways the church can respond to domestic violence, and “do justice” for survivors. But for now, would you “walk humbly with your God”? Would you ask him to open your eyes and ears, to soften your heart and to be ready to listen. It is all too easy to turn a blind eye and think ‘It couldn’t happen here’, but statistics suggest that it could and does. Will you be ready to spot it in your friends, in your small group or in your church?
Ask God to help you and to give you wisdom.
Peter Willson is Co-ordinator for First Man Standing, a ministry of Restored Relationships.
Restored is a Christian charity with the aim of ending all violence against women. Their website www.restoredrelationships.org has resources for churches that will help them recognise domestic abuse and deal safely and compassionately with victims and survivors.
* The vast majority of abuse worldwide is partner initiated and male on female. Restored recognises that domestic abuse is devastating for all victims of domestic abuse whether women or men, straight or gay. The causes of violence against men differ from those against women, require a different skill set and an expertise that Restored is regretfully unable to provide. If you are a man affected by domestic abuse Restored can direct you to an appropriate organisation if you need help.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, the views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.