September
10
Author
Peter Willson
Domestic Abuse – A Male Perspective

In my last two blog posts for Jubilee+ I wrote of the extent to which women are affected by domestic violence in the UK*, its nature, its impact on impoverishing families and how the church can be a safe haven for victims and survivors through appropriate understanding and responses.

In this article I want to talk about where violence against women starts – that is, in the male mind – and how men in the church can respond with a Christlike masculinity.

Domestic abuse has two components

  1. A sense of entitlement
  2. Behaviour that promotes control

The two work together, usually in a cycle of escalating incidents that leads to a series of abusive episodes.

The cycle goes something like this in a relationship:

  • It’s all great; there is lots of attention and giving of gifts.
  • This changes to a period of moodiness or unexplained distance.
  • Minor criticisms mount and become more frequent.
  • There is a sense that you are walking on eggshells out of concern that something will snap.
  • A small event triggers an overbearing and abusive response or controlling event.
  • Your confidence and position are undermined as you attempt to appease your partner.
  • Your partner apologises, asks for forgiveness, and says it will never happen again.
  • The attention, flowers and gifts start coming again.
  • Then the moodiness or distance begin again…

 

In general, you can define this attitude as: ‘Your will and choices are mine’.

Male attitudes associated with abuse are often idealised to what a ‘real man’ should be. They promote self-sufficiency, toughness, physical attractiveness and adherence to gender roles. Within a group ruthless competition, suppression of any emotion except anger, rejection of dependency or weakness, devaluation of women and feminine attributes in men, and the building of male to male dominant hierarchies are all promoted. Therefore, a ‘real man’ is aggressive and if necessary violent, stoic in the face of difficulties, and expected to demonstrate psychological and physical strength in his pursuits. He takes risks, seeks adventure, makes everything a competition and demonstrates achievement and success. Many of the behaviours are directed towards making money and supporting the home. However, in scenarios where aggression is not likely to achieve success, such as within family life, abusers seek to change the culture of the institution or use personal persuasion in order to achieve domination.

In certain situations, it is possible to see some of these behaviours as positive. We value courage, fortitude, strength and resilience in sport, policing, armed forces and situations of adversity. However, abusers will use these sentiments to seek affirmation, while combining their behaviour with subversion and coercion of another person, which most would not condone.

Jesus’ attitude to others could not be more different.

Jesus’ behaviour showed that he was not afraid of emotion, shame or apparent failure. He demonstrated dependency on others and his anger was not dominating. He never demeaned anyone, manipulated them or sought to control them. He was not competitive, a thrill-seeker or motivated by success. Yet in all the accusations his opponents threw at him, never once did anyone suggest he was not sufficiently manly.

Regarding women, Jesus rejected both the Roman view of women as possessions and the Jewish Orthodox view of women as a source of spiritual impurity. He scandalously incorporated women into his discipleship group. He touched and spoke to women others considered ritually unclean or outcast, he taught women and encouraged them to spread the gospel, he confided in them, broke spiritual norms to comfort, heal and empower them, and saw them as integral to his mission – all of these would have been anathema to a society that saw women as chattels or unclean and inherently spiritually inferior.

In general, you can define this attitude as – ‘Your will and choices are yours’.

When dealing with abuse it is common, and understandable, to concentrate on the behaviours of abuse. These can be identified and challenged because they are obvious. However, dealing with the mind-set that gives one person a sense that they are entitled to submit another person to their will is far more difficult. This is a process that takes time, and requires mentorship and long-term demonstration of change in order to show that the sense of entitlement has gone and not just been hidden.

The support of men for each other in the church is vital for providing all men with appropriate role models, encouragement, mentorship and support. By demonstrating Christlike masculinity, we can be an example and help the effort to end behaviours and attitudes that lead to domestic violence. In this way, the church can play a vital role in ending violence against women.


Restored is a Christian charity with the aim of ending violence against women. Part of our work is to encourage men to engage with this issue by examining themselves, calling out poor attitudes or behaviour and getting involved in a project to promote an end to abuse.

If you run a men’s group download our First Man Standing Bible study series. If you organise men’s meetings or breakfasts get in touch if you would like one of us to speak, and if you would like training apply to come on one of our training days or read our Survivors’ Handbook and then give it away as an act of grace – get involved.

 

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Peter Willson is Co-ordinator for First Man Standing, a ministry of Restored Relationships. He will be leading a seminar at our annual Churches that Change Communities conference in November 2019. Find out more.

If you have experienced domestic violence and don’t know what to do, or would like assistance with training for church leaders, members or men’s groups, please contact Restored.

* 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, we can direct you to an appropriate organisation if you need help.

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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.