The Shadow Pandemic

The Shadow Pandemic

Domestic Violence

August 03, 2020

Described as a shadow pandemic, domestic violence is a silent killer. And it happens in the Church more than you think.

It is tempting to see  domestic violence (DV) as something that happens outside of the protective walls of the church. But this is false. Our colleagues, friends, family members or even church members could be suffering, often in silence.
It is important to acknowledge that not all family violence is physical. Our understanding of what constitutes violence in a family has changed over time.
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour intended to control another person in the family or in an intimate adult relationship; including physical, verbal, emotional, economic, sexual and spiritual abuse (or a combination).
“We had all of these women coming forward [saying] ‘I wish he would hit me because then somebody could see the bruises and then they could believe how awful and how terrible it is to live with him’,” says Adventist relationship counsellor and Avondale University College lecturer Paul Bogacs. “So we had to rethink—DV doesn’t necessarily mean being hit. We now talk about different forms of DV; we talk about financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual, spiritual—all as different forms of DV, with the key underlying issue being control.”
That element of control is really at the centre of all violence.
“To feel some power, to feel that you have some kind of control over something—even if it’s what my wife does or doesn’t do. That is domestic violence,” says Pastor Bogacs. “Now, we see it on a spectrum, because power and control are issues in all relationships. What I look at as a couple’s therapist is how much fear is there?”
Increased pressure and proximity during the time of COVID-19 mean that DV reports and incidents are rising, in number and frequency.
“Having people in close proximity with each other for a greater period of time is going to increase the opportunities for control,” shares Pastor Bogacs. Being at home all day, every day, instead of the break that might be gained from employment or the freedom to go out or do things with the kids is taken away as families stay in close proximity. Financial pressures and job losses at this time are also making it hard.
“Does it happen in the Church? You bet,” says Pastor Bogacs.
The premier Adventist study on DV was conducted in the US with more than 1400 participants (2006). Results showed that respondents fell within the same range as those in the community around them.5 A qualitative research group from the same study showed that more than 90 per cent of the abusers were church members themselves, with five pastors, six elders, six deacons and a number of others who held church leadership positions (out of 40 interviews).
“Domestic violence certainly happens in the Christian church,” agrees Dr Danijela Schubert from the South Pacific Division (SPD) Discipleship Ministries team. “If it’s happening out there, it’s happening in the Church. But if we are less willing to talk about
Dr Schubert sees the Church as more willing to talk about DV these days, championing awareness campaigns like EndItNow.
Church leaders in the SPD (South Pacific Division) have worked hard, both theologically and socially, making statements against DV and working to educate pastors and leaders. However, there is a gap between theory and practice at a grassroots level, where culture and literalistic interpretations6 of Scripture lead to propping up the secret stronghold of abuse.
Christians stay longer in abusive homes and spiritual abuse is always a component and damages the abused person’s perception of God.5
“Many people have experienced answers [from the Church] that put victims off. It is a really important thing that the first time they come forward, victims are believed. If that doesn’t happen, it is so much more difficult,” says Dr Schubert.
This is an excerpt from an article by Jarrod Stackelroth in the Record - July 31, 2020.Read the whole article:
August 22 is Enditnow Emphasis Day in Seventh-Day Adventist Churches.

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