The rape and murder of Melbourne woman Eurydice Dixon in July ignited national conversation about preventing violence against women. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that 30% of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner since the age of 15. We live in a world where power is often established through violence.
What can we do about this sad situation? An Australian media article suggested that parents can promote gender equality and help prevent violence against women. Is this the best we can do?
Violence is common in Australia—40% of people have experienced at least one incident of violence since the age of 15 (AIHW, 2018). Women are more likely to experience violence from a known person and in their home, while men are more likely to experience violence from strangers and in a public place. Although men are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, most victims are women. In a recent 12-month period, 99 women and 27 men were killed by a current or previous partner. And since age 15:
– 17% of women & 6% of men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous partner.
– 23% of women & 16% of men have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner.
– 18% of women & 5% of men have been sexually assaulted and/or threatened.
Family violence is a leading cause of homelessness. Many women who experienced intimate-partner violence, suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders. And children exposed to family and sexual violence can experience long-term effects on their development and have increased risk of mental health issues, and behavioral and learning difficulties.
Our Watch (2015) claim that gender inequality sets the necessary social context for violence against women. This includes:
– Condoning violence against women.
– Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence.
– Stereotyped constructions to masculinity and femininity, and
– Disrespect towards women and male peer relations that emphasize aggression.
Hamilton, Powell, and Pfitzner (2018) claim that violence against women is driven by gender inequality: “Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity are key drivers of violence against women”. And “traditional attitudes towards gender are one of the strongest predictors of attitudes that support this violence”.
They distinguish between gender and a person’s biological sex. Gender is the way people think and act based on learned roles and social expectations. They recommend that parents challenge rigid gender roles and stereotypes by promoting gender equality and building children’s resilience to rigid gender stereotypes in early childhood. This includes monitoring the emotions and activities depicted in storybooks. And avoiding gender-specific toys.
They hope that supporting parents to promote more diverse concepts of gender with their young children may reduce rigid gender stereotypes tied to attitudes that support violence, and create a more gender equitable community in the long term.
What does the Bible say?
Violence began in the first family when Cain murdered his brother Abel when jealously escalated into anger. The Bible teaches that humanity inherits a sinful nature from our original ancestor Adam. All of us have a sinful nature that rebels against what God wants (Isa. 53:6). This is the source of all violence because the sinful nature includes: every kind of wickedness, evil, murder, hatred, fits of rage, drunkenness, rage and anger, lust, and those who kill their fathers or mothers, are abusive, are without love, are without self-control, and are brutal (Rom. 1:29-31; 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:10-11; 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 12:20-21; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3-5; Col. 3:5, 8; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-5; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). This includes verbal abuse (Col. 3:8). Our sinful nature drives the violence against women and every other kind of violence. And no amount of education, training or social manipulation can remove our sinful nature. So, according to God’s message in the Bible, the solution proposed in the article (gender equity) will only have limited success.
Jesus taught that all people have within them the potential for violence. The instinct and choice to be violent comes from our inner being (Mk. 7:14-15, 21-23). That’s the source and driver of all sinful thoughts and behavior. James confirms that fights and quarrels come from our inner desires (Jas. 4:1-3).
But God has provided a solution to the violence of this world. Jesus Christ was the only person in the history of the world who did not have a sin nature (2 Cor. 5:21). When He died, Jesus took the punishment for our sins. If we acknowledge this and follow Him we receive a new divine nature that produces: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal, 5:22-23NIV). These attitudes and behaviors are the opposite to violence against women and every other kind of violence. Solomon advised, “Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways” (Prov. 3: 31) and Jesus made this possible.
The Bible describes this godly love as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Note that “it is not easily angered”, because it’s associated with “forbearance kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Husbands are to show this kind of godly sacrificial love: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph.5:25). And, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them” (Col. 3:19).
The cure for male aggression, oppression, and abuse is not gender equity. It’s the good news about Jesus, which can change our minds to produce peace, love, justice, and humility. Time with the Bible and God transforms us (Phil. 1:9-11; 2:13; Heb, 13:20-21).
The best way to reduce violence against women and every other kind of violence is to trust in Jesus and follow God’s teachings in the New Testament. This changes our lives and addresses the real source and not just the symptoms of violence.
AIHW (2018), “Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia”, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra, Australia.
Hamilton G, Powell A, Pfitzner N, (2018) “Parents can promote gender equality and help prevent violence against women. Here’s how”, The Conversation, July 30, 2018.
Our Watch (2015), “Change the story. A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia”. Our Watch, Melbourne, Australia.
Written, August 2018
Also see: Gender confusion
Especially for women
Domestic oppression is a pattern of intimidating or cruel behavior used to control family members. It has been reported that such violence affects 25-33% of Australian families and 28% of U.S. marriages. In most cases, the perpetrators of domestic oppression are men. This may be because women are less able physically to hurt a man, or because they lack financial independence, making them vulnerable to abuse of power. The costs to the community of domestic oppression include wasted lives, fearful spouses and children, and expensive health, counseling, legal and welfare services.
Before we look at what can go wrong, let’s look at what the Bible says about families.
God’s Plan For Family Relationships
In Ephesians 5:22-6:4, Paul described God’s intended relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children this way:
|“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church – for we are members of His body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the Church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”|
A husband is to love and care for his wife as he loves and cares for himself, and as Christ loves and cares for the Church. A wife is to respect her husband in this context. Children are to obey their parents in the Lord and fathers are not to exasperate their children, but instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. What a lovely picture of a family! What can go wrong?
When Control Replaces Love
Tragically, husbands – often out of a distorted emphasis on their headship, and a failure to recognize the Spirit’s gifting of women to serve – have consciously or unconsciously suppressed women and quenched the Spirit. They have not always loved their wives “as Christ loved the Church.”
The Bible says the wife should not be head of the household (Eph. 5:22-23). When the husband loves his wife as he loves himself, and she respects her husband, there is a balance of power, because he does not think of himself only, and she respects his leadership in this context. But it is possible for this balance of power to be abused. When this happens and a husband does not love his wife, his marriage and spiritual life suffers (1 Pet. 3:7).
Domestic oppression is a range of behaviors used by one against another for the purpose of gaining and maintaining control in a relationship. It is basically an attempt to set up a relationship so that it goes the way the oppressor wants it to go. It is an imbalance of power. There are two “sides” in this imbalance of power: that of the perpetrator and that of the victim.
The range of oppressive behaviors includes: threats and intimidation, verbal and emotional attacks, social and financial control, spiritual abuse (using the Bible to justify control), silence and withdrawal, mental abuse and mind games, physical and sexual assault. Domestic oppression is deliberate and intentional. Often the perpetrator is jealous, insecure and has low self esteem.
The Cycle Of Oppression
Domestic oppression is a pattern of behavior, not isolated, unrelated incidents. It shows up as a cycle that rotates between relative calm and explosions of abuse. The perpetrator holds the power and maintains control over the victim throughout the cycle. After a violent incident, the perpetrator feels regret, sorrow and guilt, and will ask for forgiveness if exposed or if the victim has withdrawn. Promises or gifts may be offered to try to restore the relationship.
After the victim has recovered from the trauma, there is a peaceful period in which the previous violence may be denied. But when things don’t go his way tension builds until there is another incident and the cycle repeats. Some stages in the cycle may be skipped and the time may vary, with cycles tending to become shorter and more violent unless there is intervention.
It has been found that the perpetrator usually comes to the relationship with an agenda of control. It may be subtle at first, and gradually build as things go his way. As time goes by both accept that the way their relationship is operating is “normal.” The pattern of oppression must be recognized before it can be addressed.
Sadly, children are most often victims, and the effects on them can be devastating and lifelong. Unwittingly they learn to avoid conflict and fear commitment. Perpetrators and victims may come from families where there was domestic oppression, and these behaviors can be passed on to their children.
Biblical Examples Of Oppression
King Saul showed many of the classic behaviors of domestic oppression towards his servant David. Saul was jealous of David’s popularity (1 Sam. 18:8). He kept David under his control and isolated David from his family (1 Sam. 18:2). Without social contact and support, the victim is easier to manipulate and becomes more dependent on the oppressor. Saul also sent David on dangerous missions (1 Sam. 18:13; 19:17). He tried to harm him in violent outbursts (1 Sam. 18:10-11; 19:10).
Saul went though periods of remorse when he shed tears, apologized, confessed, and promised not to harm David (1 Sam. 19:6; 24:16-21; 26:21-25). David did nothing to provoke Saul (1 Sam. 20:1; 26:18). In fact, he repeatedly attempted to soothe, appease, reason, and bargain in order to stop the violence. But, none of his efforts worked. David discovered that a victim can’t stop the abuse by seeking to please the abuser.
The Bible describes the following oppressive behaviors as sinful: jealousy, rage, selfishness, discord, dissensions (Gal. 5:19-21); slander, malice, deceit (Rom. 1:28-32); abuse, lack of self control, unloving, unforgiving spirit (2 Tim. 3:1-8). The underlying desire to control another person is sinful (3 Jn. 9-10).
Preparing For A Healthy Marriage Relationship
What can a single person do to avoid the possibility of becoming a victim of domestic oppression after marriage? Start by working with God to become a mature, spiritual person. Learn to value yourself as God does, and develop a close relationship with Him. Don’t view your singleness as merely a time of waiting for your life partner to appear. Work on becoming the person God wants you to be.
Make “safe” friends – those who will be honest with you, and lovingly share your good and bad times. The Bible says, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted … and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel … Do not forsake your friend” (Prov. 27:6,9,10). Safe friendships are nurtured throughout life; we all need them. When you are preparing for marriage, you may not want to spend time with others, but cutting off all supportive friends can be harmful. A wise spouse-to-be (or spouse already) recognizes that healthy friendships enrich the marriage.
Don’t be discouraged; not everyone is oppressively controlling. But be aware of any problems that you might be facing. It takes courage to recognize problems and look for help. Become a strong (but not controlling) person, with a mature faith in God, and safe friends, in order to minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim of domestic oppression.
Published, January, 2007 (by Jean Hawke)