August 19 – Our Families: Domestic Violence

The tragedy of domestic violence

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The United States Department of Justice has defined domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.” Psychology Today says domestic violence occurs when a person consistently aims to control their partner through physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. 

According to statistics compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Over the span of a year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. One in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. Domestic violence is responsible for over 1,500 deaths each year in the U.S. 

Not all abuse is physical. Emotional abuse is another type—behaving angrily in a way that is intimidating or dangerous (including being told the victim was a loser or a failure, being insulted or humiliated, or some other form of coercive control). According to the National Institutes of Health, 48.4 percent of women and 48.8 percent of men report experiencing at least one form of psychological aggression by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

Between 14 percent and 25 percent of women are sexually assaulted by intimate partners during their relationship, and over half of women raped by an intimate partner were sexually assaulted multiple times by the same partner. Marital rape is committed by the victim’s spouse (as opposed to a non-married intimate partner).  Between 10 and 14 percent of married women will be raped by their spouses at some point during their marriages. 

Abuse is driven by the desire to control the other person, to maintain power in the relationship, and assume the position of superiority. The abuser’s tactics create a sense of complete control, instilling fear, isolation, and humiliation in victims, no matter the nature of the abuse. Violence can also involve problematic cultural norms, particularly in cases of men sexually assaulting women.  

Another assertion of control can be in the form of economic abuse which involves maintaining control over financial resources, withholding access to money, or attempting to prevent a victim or survivor from working and/or attending school in an attempt to create financial dependence as a means of control. 

Some abusers may experience mental illness or have certain personality disorders, but these are just contributing factors. The bottom line is that manipulators and abusers desire control, by whatever means necessary. 

Domestic abuse has a deep impact on victims and families, and the effects are personal, social, economic, and pervasive. Violence in the home, and even the possibility of violence, creates fear among family members and can destroy family environments, leading to the break-up of the home. A number of studies have been done on the national economic cost of domestic and family violence, which are now estimated to be over $12 billion per year 

Domestic issues also affect communities. There are consequences, such as loss of employment and homelessness, children missing school, family providers perhaps going to prison, and more. Churches need to position themselves to assist families dealing with domestic abuse. It is a responsibility of the church to help families or provide safety for victims of violence. They can guide families and victims in spiritual growth, along with providing emotional or even financial help for the families. 

Help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233.  Emergency room nurses and doctors are trained to spot and report incidents of domestic violence. The same hotline number can be utilized for victims of non-violent abuse.  

When He walked the earth, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34). In 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, the apostle Paul helps to define love: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant nor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” 

How then should we pray? 

  • For husbands and wives (or other domestic partners) who find themselves in abusive situations to seek help and counsel. 
  • For God to work in the hearts of abusers, that they might be able to turn over all issues of control to the Lord. 
  • For the Lord to give victims and survivors of abuse clarity of mind and calm in their hearts in order to make wise decisions. 
  • For people to receive the comfort from the Lord to be good stewards of their emotional lives. 
  • For healing for children who have experienced domestic abuse in the home. 
  • That churches across America would take a stand and teach respect for one another, as well as position themselves to assist victims and abusers. 
  • For God’s love to triumph in marriages. 

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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