Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why Everyone Must Combat Abuse & Domestic Violence

Domestic violence. Batterered wives. Domestic terrorism. Bah humbug. Who cares? None of my friends are abused. It has nothing to do with me. People may well say that; but how do you know? Are you sure your friend isn’t black and blue on the inside from verbal and emotional abuse and is keeping it private as is typical of abused women? And what about the receptionist at your doctor’s office? Could it be the name calling and put downs she’s getting at home made it so hard to concentrate that she put your papers in someone else’s file and now no one can find them? Could your coworker, whom you think has PMS, actually be in terror of unjustly losing custody of her children because of threats from her almost ex-husband and because the court tends to believe the statements of an angry aggressive man are true, while his victim must furnish proof for her statements? And horror of horrors, what if one of your daughters—or your friend’s daughters ends up married to an abuser? As with the Holocaust, if too many people shrug and turn away, the problem will soon be on everyone’s doorstep and come into their homes. We must not only intervene to stop domestic violence, we must take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

But how can we prevent abuse?

First, look at what causes it. We have a nation built on patriarchy, of men making the rules, and still have many who are intent on keeping it that way. Theoretically that should not be a problem—at least not if men are truly intent on the best interests of women and children as much as or more than their own welfare. But not only do humans tend to be selfish, when we have years of pro-male teaching, beliefs and power, combined with disrespect and devaluing of women, laws--whether by government or society--intended to benefit and maintain the power and privilege of men are the outcome.

Second, examine those male vs female beliefs. Is the religious text actually aimed at keeping women in their place, or have you misread it and totally missed that in the culture the directive was given, the intent was to provide for women the next step out of oppression? Have you not noticed how incongruent are the texts for yielding to one another versus interpretation of texts requiring one gender to totally yield so the other can dominate?

Third, educate yourself about domestic violence and abuse and control tactics, and conversely, about healthy supportive relationships. Examine your own behavior. Do you tend to control or manipulate others? Do you tend to be controlled or manipulated by others? If so, take steps toward mutual respect of self and others and influence others toward the same.

Fourth, look for role models who respect both men and women, and for married role models who show what a marriage where both spouses have equal respect and decision-making power looks like. And then develop relationship with them so you can see them in action, learn their attitudes, behaviors and knee-jerk reactions, and copy them.

Fifth, learn to see past the charming exterior of a man, and watch for signs that his partner believes she is less important than her spouse, or that she is brow beaten. (Yes, it is true some women are abusive and the reverse may apply. But at this point it is still primarily women whose lives are in danger. Even if the abuse doesn’t appear to be “that bad” right now, abuse does tend to escalate to physical violence and all too frequently, life-long injury or death for women.)

Sixth, when you think you have spotted an abusive relationship, resist the urge to avoid them and move toward them instead. Work to develop a trusting relationship with the couple, and contact your local shelter or read a book on the subject for ideas how to make a positive difference and be a corrective influence and support in their lives without stooping to controlling them.

Who knows? The life you save may be your daughter’s, or your granddaughter’s, or your son’s.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Backbone of Domestic Violence

Imagine living in a culture where everyone deferred to women. When husbands wanted to purchase something, they would be required to tell salespeople, “I have to ask my wife.” We would have a history of perhaps 43 women presidents and congress would be primarily women, with only a smattering of men. Men would have gained the right to vote in 1920, but only after 70 years of debating, arguing, and persuading for that right. There would be an ancient law allowing wives to beat their husbands with a stick no bigger than their thumbs (perhaps in this case, the husband’s thumb would be used as a measurement.) Pastors and priests would have been only women for nearly two thousand years, with a few men becoming pastors perhaps in the last 20 years. Husbands would be taught both from the pulpit and from societal pressure and shaming devices that they are required to yield to their wives, to sacrifice their own desires and their sense of right and wrong and what is best for the opinion and preferences of their wives. The whole society would be based on laws and rules drafted by and decided by women. Men would have had very little control or choices concerning the details of their lives. Whoever “wore the dresses” would be in the power position and would control the purse strings of family and society. Men wouldn’t be allowed to go hunting, boating, or to a professional ball game without the permission of their wives. In fact, there may be no professional ball games, or the teams may be primarily played and owned by women. Females would have had the privilege all these years to determine the direction of society, if or when our country went to war (perhaps there wouldn’t be any war). Men would often be expected to serve their wives and children by fetching them a drink or food. In the bedroom, the wife’s desire—or lack thereof—and preferences would determine the details of intimacy, while a husband’s desires may or may not be addressed, depending upon the whims of his wife. “Women’s work” would have earned substantially higher wages than men’s work for years, with only recent efforts at equal pay for equal work, and male professions still valued as deserving less pay than female professions.

Or perhaps if women controlled our country, most of those inequalities listed above wouldn’t be here. Maybe instead of a society governed far too often by “might makes right,” the prevailing code would be “caring and sharing are daring.”

We get so used to the way things are, that we don’t realize about half of us are more privileged than the other half. It’s by looking at life with the genders flipped that we can see clearly how much our society is controlled by men and how privileged they are and expect to be. Some people think here in the USA there is equality between the genders. If that is so, why is there still so much husband and boyfriend violence against wives and girlfriends? Isn’t it because men expect to be in control of their wives and girlfriends? Why is it only in the last 20 years that law makers have begun to address domestic violence? Why do some church leaders (like Bruce Ware) still insist women cause men to abuse them because the women are not submitting? Why are the majority of women’s jobs paid far less than male professions? Who decides that childcare should have little pay? Wasn’t it started by husbands who would not allow their wives to have a paying job unless childcare cost substantially less than the wife brought in? Why wasn’t childcare based on the husband’s salary? And why are those in the childcare and elementary teaching professions still paid so little? Although our laws and culture have moved to being more egalitarian, many men still expect to have their way and the men who make the rules are slow to make laws to curb abuse, either because they do not see the necessity for it, or for fear of losing their privileged positions, or both.

Having said that, I am deeply grateful to the men who have picked up the gauntlet and chosen to battle domestic violence and male privilege alongside women. Some men even lead the charge. After all, since women are their wives, sisters and mothers, the pain women experience at the hands of men has a way of rippling out and impacting the men closest to them—often excruciating and for decades. Usually in less income for the family. Sometimes in stress diseases or mental illness that drain the family funds. Sometimes in a troubled sex life, or a grouchy wife to name a few. Indeed, when men take up the battle for women, they are also fighting for their own wellbeing and quality of life, as well as that of their families. These are the men who are truly “manly.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Who is Doing the Abusing and Why?

Domestic Violence. It’s an ugly term, and the results are even uglier. Few want to admit to doing it. And those who do admit it, blame someone else for their actions. Part of the blame game is to say women do it just as much as men. Is this true? I agree some women use abuse tactics, including physical violence. But the statistics say it is women who are getting hurt and dying.
What causes individuals to degrade, threaten, rape, demand, shove, choke, control, and otherwise violate their spouses? Isn’t it that they think they have the right to have their way and to have power over another—and over one whom they claim to love, at that? Who has this belief? Women or men?
If you say women expect to have their way, what societal norms cause women to believe they have this right? Name and state the rule. Let’s see… “Women are to control the world.” Isn’t familiar to me. “Women should rule their families.” Never heard of it. “Husbands submit to your wives.” Sounds familiar, but is misquoted backward. I conclude I don’t know of any rules that give special privileges to women.
Does society have a belief system that says men should have things their way? Absolutely! The man is the “head of the house.” He’s to “wear the pants.” Women are to “submit to their husbands.” Society has lots of rules granting privilege to men, but none that bestow similar privilege upon women.
Why? The Women’s Liberation movement blames Christianity. Are they correct? Partially. The church has indeed put emphasis on wifely submission and very little on the self-sacrificial love required from husbands. Traditionally, wives have been blamed and told by pastors to submit any time there is “conflict” in the home. But is this Christianity? Absolutely not! The Bible requires that all Christians submit to one another. There is no free pass for husbands—at least not in the Bible.
So where does abuse come from if God and the Bible are not to blame? It comes from the human tendency to sin. For centuries male “Christian” leaders have emphasized Bible verses of their choice, and rushed over verses they didn’t care to obey. It was easy to focus on verses that gave them the authority and privileges they wanted and to ignore verses that directed them to submit.
The requirements of true Christianity are to “not think of (ourselves) more highly than (we) ought to think,” to “present (our) bodies a living sacrifice,” to “submit to one another,” to “build one another up,” to “be kind to one another,” and to “honor and prefer one another.” When leaders fail to teach biblical principles of mutual submission, it gives those who want to control their wives the hammer to do what it takes to enforce their authority. In effect, it gives men permission to hijack Christianity for their own ends and to terrorize their wives and children.
But why do some men who reject Christianity and have no “God-given” mandate to rule their wives choose to abuse? Ever since the fall, men have chosen to rule their wives. Adam blamed Eve for his sin, and God prophesied in Genesis 3:16 that because of his sinful nature, Adam would rule over Eve. That pattern has been here ever since, and God first implemented Judaism and then Christianity to free the oppressed and return equality to humanity. Let’s not allow the power-hungry to hijack our faith and make it into something evil.