Horrifying though it is to contemplate, family and domestic violence occurs within the household of faith. Once, we found it difficult to accept that child abuse has occurred in the ecclesia. Now we have the same challenge to accept the reality of family and domestic violence. Just as we are surprised when we find a person we have known for many years was sexually abused as a child or a person we have respected for decades has been a child abuser we face a similar situation with the issue of domestic violence.
The following examples are taken from real life cases: a sister not allowed the freedom to spend money on “necessities” without her husband’s approval; a husband who verbally abuses his wife after drinking too much alcohol; a husband who requires his wife to account for the time she spends when he is not present; a sister denied access to family and friends her husband does not approve of; a husband who monitors his wife’s communications and devices; a husband who will not speak to his wife for months at a time; a sister and wife physically or emotionally punished for violation of a husband’s arbitrary rules or other ‘insubordination’; a family who ‘tip-toes’ around a “difficult” father and husband that they dare not upset; a husband who threatens his wife with a firearm. This is emotional abuse and equally illegal. Make no mistake, this abuse has consequences as serious as physical violence and while there have been sisters who cannot come to the meeting on occasions because of the bruises inflicted by their husband there are those who cannot face the meeting because of abuse-induced depression. It bears repeating: abuse is a gross sin and has ‘eternal ramifications’ not only for offender and victim but often collateral damage to family and especially children.
Such behaviour can often be part of a cycle of abuse being endured by some sisters. Domestic abuse is a sin often carried out in secret. The behaviours we may notice are normally “the tip of the iceberg”.
Sisters commonly do not choose to disclose domestic abuse because of shame and because they expect to be made out to be part of the problem. They expect they will be pressured to return to the abuser. All these things need to change in our families and our ecclesias.
If this article raises concerns you have about domestic violence in your own life or those around you can call 1800RESPECT (If in Australia) or similar services in other countries. There is also a list of support services on this website including Christadelphian Support Services.