October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it's a good time to reflect on the role of the church in helping to prevent this serious social problem.* Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. And on average, every day more than 3 women are murdered by a husband or boyfriend in the U.S. (These facts and other statistics on domestic violence are available from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.) What can Christians do?
First of all, Christians need to recognize that any biblical justification for domestic violence is a perversion of God's word. Domestic violence is a sin. Abusers have violated the marriage covenant as God intended it (see Ephesians). It is not God's will that women submit to violence.
Second, because so many women in abusive situations seek help from churches, there are some Christian resources on domestic violence for pastors, religious communities, and individuals:
Guidelines for Pastors responding to domestic violence Denominational resources, including some from the ELCA and PC(USA)Faith Trust Institute, a multifaith organization addressing sexual and domestic violence Additional faith-based resources for clergy and others from VAWnet, People's Law Library of Maryland, and CounselCare Connection
Finally, a critical step in addressing domestic violence is to stop being silent about it. Domestic violence is not just a private issue - in addition to its victims, it affects children, communities, congregations, and the body of Christ. Domestic violence is a Christian issue and we can all work and pray for its end.
*Please note that, although the language I use reflects the prevalence of women as victims and men as perpetrators of domestic violence, men do account for a small percentage of domestic violence victims and this post applies equally to their suffering.