Domestic Violence Sermon: There is a Balm in Gilead
Rev. David Ferrell
II Corinthians 5.17
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
The effects of domestic violence are devastating to individuals, families, and society. But with awareness, community efforts, and the work of Christ’s Spirit the tide of domestic violence can be turned and our world can become a safer place for all.
Violence, No Respecter of Persons
King Solomon writes in Proverbs 30.28 of how a lizard (some translations refer to it as a spider) is so pervasive that it can make a home anywhere, even in the King’s palace. The Pulpit Commentary states this about the lizard in the King’s palace,
“…The lizard thou canst seize with thy hand,” and yet it is in king’s palaces. Small as it is, and easy to catch and crush, it is agile and clever enough to make its way into the very palace of the king, and to dwell there. Septuagint, “And the lizard, supporting itself by its hands, and being easy to catch (εὐάλωτος), dwelleth in kings’ strongholds.” (1983)
The point of the illustration of the spider is that it can find a home, even in the palace of a King. The royal boundaries and walls mean nothing to the spider, it makes its home wherever it chooses, and wherever it finds a hole large enough to get through. Then, it plans how to capture whatever prey should happen to pass its way.
Such is the case with violence and abuse, it knows no boundaries, and it does not care about gender, race, class, location, or social status. Perpetrators of abuse and violence are often family members, or those whose care individuals are placed in and trust. These criminal acts of violence and abuse usually occur in places designed and believed to be safe. And I repeat – violence and abuse can pervade into the lives of everyone because it does not respect boundaries of age, gender, race, or social class.
Let me share a few heartbreaking testimonials from victims of domestic violence. Anne came from a small town where she was raised in a strict Christian family. When she met her future husband, she was impressed with his ability to take charge of a situation. However, after they were married, he insisted on making all the decisions and that Anne be subservient and obey his commands. Early on in the marriage, Anne tried to stand up for herself, but he beat her physically and no one would listen. Anne states that she feels helpless to do anything (Anne’s Story).
Her name is Nisha and she suffered at the hands of an abusive husband. Initially, he was a sweet talker to her, but once they were married the manipulations started. He slowly worked at isolating Nisha from friends and family, and threatened her that she should never leave the apartment without him. He informed her that she should never ever cross him or question him about anything, and that he was only doing and saying these things because he loved her so much. By her own testimony, her health eventually broke. She developed cancer, high blood pressure, acid reflex, asthma, migraines, and panic attacks. She also suffers with Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia, Insomnia, and Depression. She takes about 12 different pills just to get by the day. She eventually left her abuser after 23 years. She states that staying for so long was the biggest mistake, and that it compromised her health (Domestic Violence: One Woman’s Story).
Zena was 15 when she finally got the courage to tell her story. Her abuse started when she was 4. Her abuser initially was her Grandfather, oh how she hated going to his house and God forbid she have to spend the night. Then her abuser was her father, and then it was her boyfriend (Zena’s Story). Zena’s abuse was sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological.
She was 84 years old, and was brought to the hospital by her abuser - her daughter. When the abusing daughter took her mother to the hospital, she purposefully gave the wrong patient background information to the doctor. Based on that incorrect information, the doctor at the hospital prescribed her mother drugs that she did not need, some of which kept her sleeping for long periods of time. The result was that she had no opportunity to eat or drink while being sedated. It was only a court order that other family members initiated that took the responsibility of her care away from her neglectful abusive daughter. Unfortunately, by the time the doctors gave the elderly woman back her intravenous line, it was too late and she died two days later (Schadenberg).
Some believe that domestic violent crime happens somewhere else, but I assure you that domestic violence is a reality in our community. Based on domestic and sexual violence statistics, I would be safe in assuming that sitting in this audience, even those raised in a Christian home, are those who have experienced some form of sexual, emotional, or physical violence.
As is often the case, the victims suffer in silence because they either cannot speak for themselves, or because of social, political, and justice systems that chooses not to hear, or do not know how to hear and respond to the victim’s plea for help. Getting victims to come forward is challenging because of the shame the victims feel, or because the victims feel they are at fault, or carry some sense that this violence and abuse is their cross to bear. I personally heard an individual counsel a person who was being abused with these words, “you made your bed, so you will have to lay in it.” And if victims do come forward they often are the ones bearing the burden of proof because of who the alleged abuser is. In Anne’s story, which I shared above in the testimonial section, her husband is a doctor. (Anne’s Story).
Thanks to courageous victims who have been willing, in the face of scrutiny, opposition, and the potential rejection that accompanies speaking out, for telling their stories. Because of their courage, the social, political, and judicial awareness about the reality and impact of violence is growing. New laws are being passed and old laws updated, attitudes and responses from policing agencies, social services, and the medical professionals are more in-tune with victim’s needs.
The ultimate responsibility for all of us is to ensure that our homes and social institutions are safe havens where the elderly are properly cared for, and where spouses and children can be nurtured and grow free from fear.
This message will address the social crisis of domestic violence that lives among us – the spider in the palace – if you will. I will define violence and the problems it creates individually and socially, I will examine the Scriptures to hear what God has to say with regards to violence, I will offer helpful resources spiritually and naturally, and I hope to challenge the congregation to live in peace and safety at home.
Violence is generally defined as behavior that hurts, damages, or kills by physical force or even through the use of intimidation. Merriam-Webster defines violence as the use of physical force to harm someone or damage property with a great destructive force or energy. Further clarifying violence, Merriam-Webster writes that violence is the exertion of physical force designed to injure or abuse. They continue to define that this violent force is “intense, turbulent, or furious” (Violence). Authors Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark write, “Physical abuse includes behaviors such as kicking, biting and punching. Sometimes an object is used to inflict harm, such as a knife or gun” (2010, 21).
Violence is pervasive, statistics reveal that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime; it is most likely to occur in the home, and by abusers that are known to the victims. (Domestic Violence)
Children are also victims of violence. They not only have to endure violence personally, but they also have to witness violence in the home between parents or loved ones, and the affects on child health and wellbeing are overwhelming. Often children try to intervene when a violent act is occurring which results in their personal injury.
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness in the U.S. alone, and costs approximately $37 billion dollars a year in healthcare, criminal justice proceedings, and social programs. (Domestic Violence)
Domestic violence is not isolated to Canada or the U.S. It is in fact a global crisis that touches every nation and all peoples – “Violence against women is a worldwide problem” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 20), and “That is why many women’s organizations have claimed that violence is the number-one fear or reality of women worldwide (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 21). Unfortunately, the magnitude of violence will never be accurately understood because of the shear volume of violent acts that go unreported.
Sadly, violence often occurs within religious settings and even in Christianity. Within Christianity, when violence happens, sometimes the abusers justify their actions biblically in terms of discipline or headship. “At the centre of wife battering are the issues of power and control as males seek to dominate and exploit women especially in patriarchal contexts” (Olojede, 2015). I declare to you that justifying violence and abuse based on a religious idea is a perversion of scripture, and an unfounded interpretation of the responsibility of headship and the role of men. The Bible declares that husbands are to love their wives (Colossians 3.19), that God hates the wicked who love violence (Psalms 11.5), that Christians are not to reward evil with evil (Romans 12.17-21), and that fathers are not to provoke their children (Colossians 3.21).
I remember as a young boy when Dad wanted me to do something insignificant for him – in a lighthearted way – he would quote the scripture “children obey your parents” (Colossians 3.20), but as I got older and got into the Bible for myself, I would quote back to him “Fathers, do not provoke your children…” and we would laugh together about my growing in the scripture.
The purpose for this message today is to challenge this local assembly to hear the cry of the victims, to remind us that there is no place like home, but that violence destroys the home (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 16, 20), and to motivate the church to be active in eradicating violence and healing the victims.
I. What Saith The Word?
The Bible shares the stories of women who were victims of violence. Genesis 16 tells the story of Hagar who was the “slave-girl” of Sarai who was Abram’s wife (Genesis 16.1). The story goes that Sarai was unable to bear children with Abram so she suggested that Abram take Hagar to be his wife so that Hagar could be a surrogate mother for Sarai and Abram. The scripture reads that Sarai said to Abram, “…it may be that I shall obtain children by her [Hagar]” (Genesis 16.2).
Abram heeded Sarai’s advice, took Hagar for his wife, and Hagar conceived and birthed a child that was named Ishmael. The Bible says that when it was evident that Hagar had conceived, Sarai became contempt in her heart towards Hagar. Sarai’s contempt for Hagar grew until Abram gave Sarai permission to deal with Hagar as she wished. Genesis 16.6 says that Sarai was so harsh with Hagar that she eventually fled to the wilderness to die.
The writer of Genesis uses the same word “harsh” in describing Sarai’s treatment of Hagar that was used to describe how horribly the Egyptians treated the Israelites during the Israelite captivity by the Egyptians. It was this harshness of the Egyptians that prompted God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. (Exodus 3.7-8)
II Samuel 13 shares the story of the violent and physical rape of Tamar at the hands of her brother Amnon. This story shows the physical and emotional damage done by acts of violence. Not only did Amnon violently rape and shame Tamar, he then put her out of his house as a shamed victim. By Tamar’s own words, being put out after such violence against her was a greater wrong than his raping her (II Samuel 13.16). The reason Tamar’s being put out was more devastating than the rape was because it stripped her of her “identity,” and she lived as a “…desolate woman,…” (II Samuel 13.20), or in other words Tamar became a social outcast.
Now, I move to the New Testament and look at a story that involves a woman caught in the act of adultery and shamefully and publicly brought to Jesus for judgment. There are many things that we do not know about this story. We do not know the context of the adultery, her name is not known, we do not know if she was being raped, and we do not know if the man she was caught with is also being punished. My point in reflecting on this story is that how the law was being interpreted gave provision for women who were adulterous to be violently stoned (John 8.5).
In each of these Biblical stories there was physical, emotional, sexual, and social violence perpetrated against women. The violent acts that I just used for examples were permitted or justified because of how laws were interpreted, the social attitudes and religious ideologies of the day, and the cultural practices that in one way or another directly or indirectly allowed the victimization of women.
I present to you that God, in Hagar’s hour of need and abuse, ministered to her. When Hagar fled from Sarai and hoped to die in the wilderness, it was God who met her and pledged to “…multiply [her] offspring that they cannot be counted for the multitude” (Genesis 16.10). Furthermore, it was God who took special notice of her affliction (Genesis 16.11), ministered to her and gave her direction for her life.
In the case of Amnon’s rape of Tamar his sister, we see the continuation of sexual violence that was introduced into King David’s family when he sexually violated Bathsheba and then subsequently murdered her husband Uriah. In II Samuel 12.10 God declared that the sword would never depart from the house of King David because He despised God and had taken Bathsheba for a wife. Furthermore, the child that King David had gotten Bathsheba pregnant with would also die. (II Samuel 12.14)
And the sword did not depart from King David’s house. Because of what Amnon did to Tamar, Absalom revenged his sister by killing Amnon, and eventually Absalom died a horrible death by hanging later on. King David’s violence against Uriah and Bathsheba opened up a floodgate of bloodshed.
God taught the Israelites through Moses to honor your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and do not covet your neighbors wife or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Deuteronomy 5.16-21). The promise was that God would bless, keep, multiply, heal, and protect those who honored Him and kept His commands (Deuteronomy 7.12-15). King David violated all of these ordinances and King David’s family experienced continued violence down through his lineage.
When the Scribes and Pharisees brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, they did not care about the woman; they were simply trying to catch Jesus in a moral dilemma. Jesus on the other hand was more interested in protecting this humiliated woman from the violent death being proposed by the Scribes, Pharisees, and the gathered crowd that had already picked up their stones to execute violent judgment on her. By His response to her, Jesus apparently did not advocate her proposed violent death nor did He condemn her for the sin she had been caught in. Jesus knew that the Scribes and Pharisees did not care about her as a woman; she was only an object being used to try to trap Him. Jesus protected her and sent her on her way free from her accusers.
There are other examples in the Bible as well. When King Ahasuerus could have had Queen Esther killed for coming into his presence without being summoned, he refused. When Nabal could have abused his wife Abigail for going behind his back and circumventing his authority, he refused. The scripture states that his own heart died within him (I Samuel 25.37) when he learned of what his wife had done to save his life. In Genesis 20.1-8 God protects Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and demonstrates His displeasure at women being treated as objects to be traded or sexually used for political favors. When Abraham gave Sarah to King Abimelech, telling the King she was his sister, God intervened and threatened to kill King Abimelech if he did not return Sarah to Abraham (Genesis 20.7). And the Angel of the Lord had to personally persuade Joseph not to kill his espoused wife Mary when he discovered she was pregnant before they were married.
Notice what Peter, the disciple of Jesus, taught in I Peter 3.7-12,
7. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
8. Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
9. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
10. For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit;
11. let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.
12. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(I Peter 3.7-12)
II. What Is An Abusive Relationship?
How does one know if they are in an abusive relationship? Once again the scriptures give us clues of what to look for. First of all, the Bible teaches us what true love is. I Corinthians 13.4-8 states that, “love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” As you can see, there is nothing in the Biblical description of love that advocates or justifies any form of violence.
Secondly, the story of the relationship between King Saul and David and some of the characteristics of King Saul reveal the nature of an abusive, violent relationship. Saul blames his abuse on David, the victim. Saul refuses to take responsibility for his actions and makes excuses. King Saul was Jealous of David and became obsessive about David. King Saul used his position as King as a license to abuse (Kennedy, 2005).
David, on the other hand, exhibited victim mentality. He grew up in an abusive home. He tried to appease his abuser and was stalked after he left King Saul’s palace. (Kennedy, 2005)
I have heard it preached that the greatest challenge of sin is its deception. I would argue that one of the greatest challenges for abuse victims is the deception in being a victim. To illustrate the power of deception, I point out one victim’s description of her abuse when she finally called for counseling, she said it this way, “I am not a battered wife, but my husband tried to kill me” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 62).
Let me share with you some signs that you are in an abusive relationship: Jealousy, explosive behavior, being kept isolated from friends or family, the withholding of finances, and being verbally assaulted or threatened with violence. This type of behavior is designed to control victims and the violent actions abuse them physically, emotionally, and sexually. Types of physical abuse include hitting, kicking, scratching, pinching, binding of arms, choking, and shoving. Emotional abuse involves destroying the self-esteem or sense of self-worth in the victim. Often this abuse happens through public humiliation and “put-downs” by the abuser. So deceiving is emotional abuse that the victims actually believe that they deserve how they are being treated. Another avenue that abusers control victims is through finances. Perpetrators will deny money for food and essentials, or constantly badger their victims at work or keep them from going to work. Sexual abuse takes on the form of marital rape, which is overriding a spouse’s refusal of sex. Or it can be in the form of incest perpetrated by an older family member, or in the form of peer incest such as brothers and sisters or cousins (Nonell, 2013).
III. Is There Any Hope?
Jesus declared “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11.28-29).
Jesus spoke at the beginning of His ministry that His mission was to “…to bring good news to the poor…proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And then He declared that, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4.18-20).
Yes, scripture breathes hope into the lives of the victims, their families, and even the abusers.
To those caught in the cycle of being abusive and violent, there is a way of recovery. That journey begins with taking responsibility for one’s actions. Your abusive behavior is not your wife’s fault, your children’s fault, your parent’s fault, or your job’s fault – take onus for your criminal behavior. Nason-Clark and Fisher-Townsend write that often the first words a male abuser states when arrested or meeting with a therapist because of his violent behavior is, “I am not violent…but…” (2015, 5). That “but” is the abuser’s space of justifying their actions, and that is a barrier when it comes to recovery. Just like the journey of being reconciled to God starts with an acknowledgment of a sinful life and repentance for that life, so the journey of freedom from violent behavior begins with “…assume[ing] responsibility for their [your] actions” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 162). Next the Bible teaches us, “Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and do what is just and right…” (Ezekiel 45.9). Kroeger and Nason-Clark write that “God’s people are expected to repudiate [refuse to participate or associate] the ways and companionship of the violent” (2010, 167). In other words, adopt a zero tolerance policy of violence. The Bible states “Do not envy the violent and do not choose any of their ways” (Proverbs 3.31). It is mandatory to put accountability in your life. Here the church can serve as “…mentor, monitor, and minister, but there can be no pretending that everything is alright. Neither can the church accept an abuser’s excuses” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 171). Finally, abusers must change their attitudes about violence. Attitudes change when the language changes – so speak of others as human beings. They are not the “old man” or “old lady,” they are not the “ball and chain.” The Bible says that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18.22), and that “Sons [children in the KJV] are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalms 127.3-5). Changing our attitudes also means changing the things that we find funny. Jokes that degrade or dehumanize are not funny. When we dehumanize someone, we can justify our violence against them – that is not acceptable. Paul taught the Romans that the church should not practice wickedness nor applaud those who do.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them (Romans 1.28-32).
As Pastor of this church, I reach out to you that if you are a perpetrator of violence – seek help. If you do not know where to turn, I will help you. Seek counseling, seek deliverance, and let God – His church, and the community assist you on your journey out of a life of violent behavior. Put accountability and safe guards into your life. It is time to do what is right before God. James wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4.17). To continue in the sin that you have been made aware of and set free from is to nullify the work of Christ in your life and frustrate the grace of God. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God;…” (Galatians 2.15-21).
Maybe you are here listening to my words and harbor violence in your heart. Possibly there is a rage or anger that burns within your chest. It is time for you to release that anger, release that rage, turn over to Jesus the things that fuel the fire within you, and be healed and set free from the need to control and manipulate others – especially your wives or spouses and children. It is not God’s will for your life to be tied up and consumed by your own devices of control and manipulation. Right now you can walk free from those sins in Jesus name. The path of being set free from anger and violence is forgiveness. Timothy wrote that many are taken captive in the snare of the devil (II Timothy 2.26), and one of satan’s biggest traps is bitterness and a desire for vengeance. But thanks be to God, His word proclaims “…if the Son [Jesus] makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8.36). I speak deliverance to those held captive in and by violent ways and violent approaches to life. Then I encourage you to walk in the liberty achieved through Christ and His people. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5.1).
There is hope for the families who are victims of abuse. “Again and again the Bible promises grace to the children and children’s children of those who love and trust God” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 134). The first step in healing the family as Kroeger and Nason-Clark write, is “Saving a life versus saving a marriage” (2010, 135). That requires setting strict boundaries and strict limits on the abuser and by “not” enabling abusive behavior. Setting boundaries and limits in front of children gives them security and teaches them that violent behavior will not be tolerated. God envisions that “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” (Isaiah 32.18), and this occurs when peace and safety take precedence in the home. Draw a line, “Verbal abuse will be prohibited, as will word twisting, ridicule and insult. More than this, the wife [mother] is promised empowerment to rise to her own defense – to become a full person in her own right” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 146).
To the victim, only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse. Isaiah wrote, “Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). The Psalmist wrote, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147.2-3). The abuser can ask for forgiveness, but only Jesus can bind up the wounds of the abused. The victim’s journey of healing begins with forgiving those who have abused them. Forgiveness is not forgetting, nor is it without limitations; forgiveness is “…letting go of the right to “get even.” That is God’s job not ours…” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 152). Remember that the Psalmist wrote the Lord is my shepherd, that He leads, that He prepares a table, and that He anoints with oil (Psalms 23). Ultimately, it is the indwelling of Christ’s Spirit within our lives that works the work of divine healing.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14.15-20).
There is something powerful about the work of Christ’s Spirit in a life that can transform an individual. This transforming is not a repairing or refurbishing; the Bible tells us that we are made brand new. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “…if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (II Corinthians 5.17).
The 91st Psalm tells us that the Lord is our refuge and fortress, and it is He who delivers from snares. That the Lord is a shield and buckler and that He commands His angels to guard you. He also promises that He will be with them that are in trouble because the name of Lord is a strong tower and the righteous can run into it and find safety (Proverbs 18.10).
God’s word is forever settled in heaven and is eternal (Matthew 24.35), so if Christ promised to heal the broken hearted, deliver the captive, and liberate the bruised (Luke 4.18) then those words apply to you today and I speak healing, deliverance, and liberation into your hearts.
I. The Role Of The Church
Why the church you may ask? “We think that alliances of churches around the globe need to consider violence against women a religious issue, and issue demanding thoughtful and immediate response from denominations and ministry organizations right down to the grass-roots level – the local congregation” (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 63)
Because of the pressure that Christians carry to present a perfect front, and a misuse or misunderstanding of the scripture, the church is often unprepared to deal with domestic violence from within. When victims come forward, the church must be ready to properly respond. The church can be prepared by increasing awareness of violence, becoming vocal against it, offer training in recognizing the signs of violence, the devastating impacts of violence, and how to respond. It is time for the church and members to assume responsibility for speaking out against violence and assisting and protecting those in violent relationships. The church needs to be active in knowing how, who, and where to refer victims and families of abuse. Ultimately, the church and its members “…must be willing to listen, and to believe the victim” and be ready to rescue and care for the victims (Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 187).
Jerica Nonell, who is an activist against domestic violence, offers these suggestions. Educate as many people as possible about Domestic Violence, its impact and how to intervene safely. Get your community organized! There is safety and influence in numbers when intervening to stop an abuser or making your community a place where Domestic Violence will not be tolerated. Boost your community support network with technology! If you have a smart phone and the victim has a smart phone, consider downloading a safety app for women, many of which have been designed to automatically alert your support network if you are in danger. Ring the bell. If you are the neighbor of a family experiencing Domestic Violence, please take the time to ring their bell when you hear a violent situation happening. Make the call, NOW. If the situation is beyond simple neighborly intervention (e.g. the abuser has a gun and uses it during the abuse), call the police or your local emergency services (such as 911 in the U.S.) IMMEDIATELY (Nonell, 2013).
Before I bring this message to a conclusion, it is essential for us to leave here with tools in our hands and resources to assist us in our war against domestic violence and to help victims.
- Police – 911
- Coalition Against Abuse In Relationship – 506-855-7222
- Mobile Crisis Response Team out of Woodstock, NB – 1-888-667-0444
- After-hours Emergency Social Development – 1-800-442-9799
- Sexual Assault Crisis Center – 506-454-0437
- Sanctuary House Woodstock, NB – 506-325-9452
- Outreach Support For Women Woodstock, NB – 506-328-9680
- Women’s Issues Branch, New Brunswick – 1-877-253-0266
- ASPIRE News is a free application which contains summaries of top stories in world, sports, and entertainment news, from the When Georgia Smiled: Robin McGraw Foundation (and powered by Yahoo!). Additionally, if someone you know is in an abusive relationship—or if that someone is you—the Help Section of the application contains resources for victims of domestic violence. This app does not serve as a replacement for emergency services—in any situation where you feel that you may be at risk, please dial 911 or your local emergency number.
10. Aurora safety App for women.
11. Circle of 6 safety app. With Circle of 6, you can connect with your friends to stay close, stay safe and prevent violence before it happens. The Circle of 6 app for iPhone and Android makes _it quick and easy to reach the 6 friends you choose. Need help getting home? Need an interruption? Two touches lets your circle know where you are and how they can help. Icons represent actions; so that no one can tell what you’re up to. Designed for college students, it’s fast, easy-to-use and private. It’s the mobile way to look out for your friends, _on campus or when you’re out for the night. - See more at: http://www.circleof6app.com/#sthash.qEI6pgLn.dpuf
12. IamDefender App - Simply activate your personal security App anytime you need HELP or if you find yourself in a compromising situation. Download for FREE on www.iAMDEFENDER.com Share with your friends and family and help them stay SAFE!
13. The Rave Project Website. This website provides a Religion and Violence Elearning experience. RAVE is an initiative that seeks to bring knowledge and social action together to assist families of faith impacted by abuse. This site even teaches victims how to discretely surf the web for violence related resources and help. http://www.theraveproject.com/index.php
Equipped with these local resources, an understanding of our role and responsibility in caring for each other in times of domestic violence, and the favor of God on our side, we as individuals and a church can make a difference in someone’s violent world.
Internalizing the Message
As I began to work on the conclusion of this message, I picked up the paper and read the title of one of the news articles, “Man Kicked Pregnant Partner In Stomach.” The article shares how the couple began dating and the violent nature of the relationship from the beginning. The article details how this crime unfolded with threats and physical harm being done to the woman. The victim also shares how she has been left devastated emotionally and physically, and thank God that someone cared enough to intervene and call the police (Landry, 2015).
“Mother Theresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” We have forgotten that we are all created by God, a God who loves us so much that we are forgiven despite our flaws, despite our imperfections and sins. We as Christians have forgotten that we worship a Savior who called those scribes and Pharisees to stop throwing stones a long time ago, a Savior who calls us today to stop throwing stones at one another. And yet, we still don’t listen. At some point or another, we have all thrown stones. Perhaps we have thrown stones with our thoughts, judging another person because they are different, because we do not agree with them, because we are not willing to make an effort to understand their point of view. Maybe we have thrown stones with our words, bruising another’s self esteem while making ourselves feel superior. Or, maybe we have literally thrown stones, physically harming another person because we have a need to feel powerful, to feel as if we are in control…When will we stop throwing stones? I wonder if it could be today” (Meredith, 2012).
Domestic violence is something that we all need to take responsibility for. It is time to change our attitudes, it is time to change how we socialize our children, it is time to be healed from anger, and it is time to release the need for manipulation and control – each time someone is abused all of society loses.
Society, the Church, and individuals can no longer turn their backs on victims and abusers – a clear message must be made that domestic violence of any kind will not be tolerated. We can do this by listening to the victims, naming the abuse, rescuing the abused in spite of abuser intimidation, and hold perpetrators accountable for their behavior.
Finally, to all of those individuals whose lives are affected by domestic violence, we can offer a life transformed to victims and abusers by the power and Spirit of Christ. Through Christ, a house can become a home and a home a refuge from despair.
Would you pray the following prayer with me?
We ask, O Lord, that you would open our eyes to see the suffering of women around the world. Give us ears to hear their cries and hearts that will not rest until we have done our part to apply the healing balm of Gilead to their wounds. Amen
(Kroeger & Nason-Clark, 2010, 14).
Rev. David Ferrell