By now, everyone probably knows that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You didn’t? Neither did I until yesterday, when I heard it on the radio.
What is Domestic Violence? Here’s a definition: Domestic violence is best understood as a pattern of abusive behaviors–including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion–used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship. Batterers use of a range of tactics to frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, often injure, and sometimes kill a current or former intimate partner. (from nrcdv.org/about)
A number of national, state, and local organizations attempt to address this issue. A quick Google search reveals: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence; and The YWCA among others. Each website has valuable information on how to help someone in a domestic violence situation. But one of the most compelling, and brief, pieces of information I found was posted on the Domestic Violence Awareness Month facebook page. The quote is from a woman named Kate Dyer, and here is what she had to say:
"I have PTSD directly related to past Domestic Violence! I am so glad to have found this page. So many of us are silent and suffer alone. The effects of DV never leave you. It's like walking around with a backpack full of fear. There is hope, and help out there. If you are in an abusive relationship, plan ahead, and get out! Contact your local domestic violence shelter, and do not speak a word of your departure to your abuser. Everyone, take care of yourselves and your kids. Even if no one has ever taken care of you. And Pray, Pray, Pray!"
Jesus was pretty clear about what happened to people who “caused one of these little ones to stumble. It would be better for them,” he said, “to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone around their neck.” Can you imagine what he might say to men who abuse the women and children in their care?
With a word Jesus famously disarmed a mob of abusive men who, in a malicious disregard for justice in that they failed to bring both parties to the act, were ready to deal out violence to a woman caught in adultery. “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.” Jesus said. Can you imagine what he would say to a psychologically manipulative, economically oppressive, and physically violent husband or boyfriend?
With the above as back ground please consider the following thoughts.
First, it is no secret that many women who find themselves in domestic violence situations aren’t married to the men who beat them. I’m afraid that might be the reason that we in the church haven’t paid much attention to this issue. That has to change. In the story above Jesus offered the woman physical and psychological refuge before he urged her to “go and sin no more.”
Second, most women who end up in these situations are so traumatized and frightened that it is almost impossible for them to consider escape. They need friendships with women who can see the issues clearly and help them feel safe enough to think through their options. Are you one of those women?
Third, as far as I know, Halifax County doesn’t currently have a Domestic Violence recovery ministry. The phone number on the DOVES website dovesinc.com is disconnected. That means that there are women in the county with no place to go. Those of us with empty nests and extra space should consider making our homes temporarily available to women in this situation. I’m sure there are do’s & don’ts available for this kind of ministry available on the websites mentioned above.
Finally, if you are an abusive man and you are still reading you need to know that you need as much help dealing with your rage and violence as your wife or girlfriend does. As God told Cain, “sin crouches at your doorstep. It desires to have you, but you must master it.” Jesus Christ alone can give you the power to overcome the monster living inside of you. Turn to him today and he will help you become the man you were meant to be.
NOTE: Since first posting the above I've received information on services available in Halifax County. Here's the scoop - Kim Carson is the program director of Domestic Violence at TriCounty Community Action. The phone number is 476-1126. The hotline is 476-1136.