What not to say: "What did you do to cause it?"

One of the common themes of domestic violence is that the power and control ‘plays’ of the abuser are built on a false claim - that the victim deserves the abuse, or that the victim does something to cause the abuse.

The victim may well do things that trigger the abuse, but a careful evaluation of the situation can help us clarify the usual situation - repeated, habituated and cyclic abuse is a choice of the abuser who is looking for, or even manipulates events to create situations the abuser claims are the reason for the abuse or the cause of the abuse. These behaviours are not shown in all settings. Aggressive driving that scares the victim is not shown when the Police are nearby. Meals are not thrown at his wife when a visiting speaker comes to lunch. The abuser does not use foul language to describe his wife, or throw her against the wall at the meeting when other people are watching.

We can easily confuse situational violence - when a situation leads to a provoked violent or abusive response, from habituated abuse by the level of control the abuser shows. Of course it is possible the abuser has a problem with anger management as well as domestic abuse, or with alcohol abuse as well as domestic abuse, but when the anger or violence when drunk only is directed at certain family members rather than anybody the abuser happens to come across, it is clearly a choice of the abuser to abuse.

Even extra-marital affairs or other behaviour against the teaching of Christ is not cause for domestic abuse. They are clearly wrong. They definitely need the person committing them to confess them and seek forgiveness of God while they have opportunity. We have a responsibility to help them compassionately and lovingly with that. But they are not and there is no reason for anyone to violate the first and second commandment and be abusive - physically or psychologically, spiritually or financially toward their spouse or other family member.

What can we say?

We can point out that it is not the things the victim does that provoke the abuse. The abuser shows all the signs of deciding to abuse and whatever the victim did the abuser would have abused them - if it was not one “reason” it would be another.

We can show the victim how it is not God’s will that she suffer this abuse - God has not asked us to suffer abuse needlessly at the hands of ungodly men, but has provided for the faithful that they can escape it, as David did from Saul for instance. Escaping such abuse is entirely scriptural - it is not departing the marriage. It is not divorce. The abuser is no longer setting out to be the example of Christ in the marriage and does not deserve reverence, has deserted the marriage and the marriage vows and is not an heir together with the victim of the Grace of Life.

We can work with the abuser to lead them to realise that they have put the victim’s and their own relationship with the Father at great risk. We can endeavour to help them humbly and meekly to see how they need help for their behaviours and show them that such help is available from counsellors inside and outside of the Brotherhood, and that there are brothers and sisters who can help them through the process of confession and repentance. This is our obligation:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Gal 6:1 NIV)

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.

Image credit: Creative Commons 2.0 License Timothy Krause, "Woman talking on cellphone"

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