(An excerpt from Stepping In, by Ron Hitchcock and Sherri Gordon)
Many people believe that domestic abuse only happens to other people in other churches. They cannot imagine that anyone in their church is suffering in silence. But the fact is abuse happens in our cities, in our communities, in our churches and in our families.
In fact, national statistics suggest that as many as one in four women will be victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lifetimes. This means that for every four women in a church, one could be a victim of domestic abuse; or 25 percent of the women in our congregations could experience some form of abuse in their lifetimes.
In general, abuse can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter how much money a family has or whether they live in the city, the suburbs, or out in the country. Abuse affects all races, all religions and all social groups.
Therefore, in an effort to paint a clearer picture of domestic abuse, it is important to dispel some of the myths surrounding abuse. There are countless myths surrounding this issue but only the most common myths will be discussed.
MYTH: All women who are abused grew up in abusive families.
FACT: Not all women who are victims of domestic abuse grew up in violent households. It is important to remember that any woman is at risk for abuse if she does not understand healthy relationships. Conversely, research indicates that many times abusive men grew up in a home where abuse or violence was present. Witnessing domestic violence as a child has been identified as a risk factor for becoming a batterer. Because it is important to keep the focus on the perpetrator’s choice to abuse, leaders should avoid asking questions like “were you abused as a child?” Asking questions like this can lead a victim to feel that she is somehow to blame for the abuse. It also takes the focus off the batterer’s choice and puts it on the victim’s family.
CHURCH’S ROLE: The church can counteract this myth by remembering Galatians 3:18, which teaches that we no longer look at people through cultural, political, gender or sociological viewpoints but as in Christ. We must lift our eyes above the status or position of a person. After all, we are all a new creation in Jesus.
MYTH: Abused women have done something to cause the abuse.
FACT: This “victim blaming” statement places responsibility for the perpetrator’s behavior on the victim’s shoulders. Most victims spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to placate and please their abusive partners. The reality of the situation is that no one is responsible for the abuse but the abuser. Abusers alone make the choice to slap, throw things, punch walls or call names. Therefore, leaders need to refrain from asking things like “what did you do to provoke the attack?”
CHURCH’S ROLE: A church can counteract this myth by teaching that violence against a spouse or a family member is sinful and criminal.