Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Positive Roles Can Churches Play In the Safety Planning Process if...?

Question: What positive roles can Churches play in the safety planning process if the victim does not want to pursue assistance from the criminal justice system, but is willing to pursue assistance from her religious community?

Answer: I'm going to be honest and say that for starters, it would be good if churches were even willing to participate in the safety planning process to begin with!

Sadly, in so many instances, I have not found this to be the case. So number one, I would have to say, is to be willing to get involved in the first place.

Then extend help without attaching conditions. There were times help was denied to me (not necessarily by my church) because I would not meet someone's condition (i.e., I'll come get you if you promise never go back. Or worse, why should I come get you? You'll just go back.).

The process must begin with the following two things:
  • Willingness to get involved
  • Not attaching conditions to the involvement such as requiring the woman to seek legal remedies or never go back.

Demonstrate respect for the woman who is seeking help, and grant her the liberty of making her own choices without risking losing our support.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Do Large Numbers of Evangelicals Believe Women Should Shoulder Part of the Responsibility for Being Beaten?

At least one conservative evangelical is honest about his views concerning women and domestic violence.

Below are the Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson's comments in a media advisory released just today:
>>"Juanita Bynum's comments and actions prove that she's an angry, out-of-control woman. God wouldn't have her discard her marriage in order to promote the domestic abuse issue or any other phony cause," <<>>how can Juanita Bynum be the poster child for domestic abuse before we know the truth about her role in this altercation? <<>>two sides to every story and like too many domestic abuse cases the husband is being tried and convicted based on a one-sided account<<

I believe the Reverend Peterson may be a bit "over the top" in his attitudes concerning women and what he believes is the "role they play" in domestic violence. However, it might surprise some to find out that high-profile conservatives, Dr. James Dobson and Dr. John MacArthur, don't really disagree with him that women should shoulder part of the responsibility for being beaten. I have cited examples in my book, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence, where these evangelical leaders essentially agree with what Peterson is saying.

In his bestselling book, Love Must be Tough, Dobson high-lighted an example of a woman who, he believed, deliberately provoked her husband into hitting her, so she could show off her “trophy” (that’s what he called her bruises). He portrayed this woman as being a fairly typical representation of battered wives. He completely exonerated the poor, "uncommunicative" husband who inflicted the bruises (that was in the edition I purchased in March of this year. Dobson just released a new edition of that book in April. I do not know if he has changed anything in the newest edition). And John MacArthur came right out and said (in a recorded question/answer session) that many times, he believes the wife provokes the violent behavior of the husband.

The news reported that the attack on Juanita Bynum was perpetrated in a public setting. From what I can gather, there is little to no doubt that Bynum was physically assaulted by her estranged husband. Refraining from physical violence remains entirely within the realm of responsibility of the one committing the violence. There is no excuse for domestic violence regardless of the provocation or lack thereof.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recipe for Violence Among Christians

Contents of latest Media Advisory:
I just completed an interview with a Christian radio host in which a new ingredient, in addition to submission, patriarchy and blame shifting, has been added to the recipe for Domestic Violence among Christians -- 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 Dare any of you having a matter against another go to the Law...?

My position is, that any woman, Christian or otherwise, who experiences physical violence should, for safety's sake, take immediate action to protect herself. And this usually involves legal action. My interviewer was obviously not in agreement with this approach. He seemed to feel that the scripture which admonishes believers not to take other believers to court should be interpreted to mean that a Christian wife should not report assaults by her husband to the authorities at all, but rather to her local church leadership only.

For battered Christian wives, this is a very dangerous, life-threatening, interpretation of that scripture. It is an interpretation I am not at all in agreement with. I do not believe that particular scripture is referring to violent crime. And my interviewer conveniently left out the part that says... "but rather let yourselves be defrauded." Obviously this verse is referring to disputes over money or property--not to physical assault.

This interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:1-2, leaves the door open for blame-shifting, an ingredient in this volatile recipe which transfers the responsibility from the one who is perpetrating the violence to the one who is being assaulted. Christian wives are commonly told that they are most likely provoking the abuse, and if they would react to their husband's abusive behavior more submissively, then he would change. Research has shown just the opposite, and blows this unbiblical argument clean out of the water.

The interview underscored the fact that, among Christians, domestic violence is not considered all that dangerous -- as if a Christian wife-beater is not as much of a threat to his wife as a non-Christian wife-beater. This idea is ludicrous, but very prevalent. The proof of that is seen in John MacArthur's statement that a wife should leave while the heat is on, but with the intention of going back when the heat is off.

When is the heat ever off? When is it ever safe for a battered wife to return to a violent home?

During the course of this interview, I was also asked about church discipline for batters. I agree that church discipline for members who commit violent crimes should be enforced, but in addition to, not as a replacement for, arrest and prosecution.

Jocelyn Andersen, author of Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence is available for comment or interview.