domestic violence

Congress Guts Crime Victims Fund

What do you do when you want to balance the budget and don't know how to compromise? Well, if you're Congress, you raid $1.5 billion from a fund set up specifically for crime victims and hope no one notices.

The Victims of Crime Act fund, set up by Congress in 1984, is distributed to states to support local domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and a variety of victim assistance programs for survivors of trauma and crime. The thing is, this is a self-sufficient federal fund — meaning that it doesn't come from taxpayer money but rather the fines and penalties imposed on criminals and offenders.   

Why the Wife of Imprisoned Pastor Kept Her Marital Abuse a Secret — Until Now

Nagmeh Abedini. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

The wife of Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012, has had a difficult month.

First Naghmeh Abedini canceled all public appearances after telling supporters by email that her husband had abused her physically, emotionally, and sexually. Twelve days later, she released a statement saying she regretted her previous emails.

“I was under great psychological and emotional distress,” she said.

States That Mandate Background Checks Have Fewer Mass Shootings, Study Shows

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A new study shows that states that require a background check before purchasing a handgun experience significantly fewer mass shootings, according to The Huffington Post.

Federal laws require background checks for handgun purchases, but many states skirt the law by allowing purchases to occur online or through private sellers. While the study from the organization Everytown for Gun Safety may seem to state the obvious, the notion that background checks save lives is hugely controversial in the U.S., for some reason.

Children Are a Heritage From God

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In every moment, we are every age we have ever been, according to psychologist Carl Rogers. For me, this means our bodies are like a bus riding down the highway of life, and the passengers are who we have been at every age. As we travel through life, some things we see, hear, and experience evoke feelings of great joy, love, and calm — or trigger tremendous anxiety, pain, and fear — from different past experiences.

When children are treated like they are not important, told they not smart enough or good enough, valued more for their accomplishments than for the unique individuals they are, treated like they only have value if they have money, or abused emotionally, physically, or sexually, the impact of those feelings never goes away. Those feelings continue to ride on the bus.

Because the child within us never goes away, the impacts of childhood abuse and neglect are long-term unless there is meaningful intervention.

Preaching About Domestic Violence Is Hard — But We Must

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It’s hard to stand in front of a congregation and talk about domestic violence.

It’s hard, because you never really know the stories of the people sitting there.

Who might have experienced domestic violence in their lives, in their home growing up, in a relationship during high school, on a college campus, in the home where they now reside?

Who might have experienced it last night? Who might have been told by their mother or religious leader that they cannot leave an abusive marriage because they would be breaking their vows? Who might have struck out at a partner? Who might have let their needs for control overwhelm their sense of self-restraint? Who might want to mask their violence with a smile or generous donations?

It's hard to stand in front of a congregation and talk about domestic violence. But it’s essential.

It’s essential because too often in the past, religious traditions have been used to defend an abusive patriarchy, to bind victims to marriage commitments that are undermined by intimate violence, to encourage people to “offer up” suffering rather than change the conditions that cause it.

It’s essential because shining a light of the reality of domestic violence is a critical step in creating pathways to safety for those who are victims. It’s essential because speaking out about domestic violence as a violation of God’s love can give victims strength to seek a better way. It’s essential because naming domestic violence as evil can help call perpetrators to account – and perhaps to repentance and treatment.

Learning to Lament With the Psalms

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The poetic prayers, songs, and laments of the book of Psalms were recorded to teach worshipers how to praise God, as well as to lament and grieve. When undergoing times of agony or when words are not enough, the Psalms can express the painful emotions for us, as processing emotion helps us to move forward with difficult choices.

Much of the Psalms were attributed to David, including the prayer of Psalm 55—a lament about suffering violence at the hands of a loved one. Many victims of abuse find themselves alone and abandoned by family and friends who become impatient and exasperated by their ongoing struggle with loving their abuser. Praying through a Psalm may be an emotional refuge during such a painful time.

Job Knew What It's Like to Feel Trapped

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The story of Job is one of the literary classics in the Bible. It is a story that tries to sort out why bad things happen to good people. It is a story that tries to make sense out of suffering. It is a story that concludes with an epic confrontation between Job and God. And it is a story that captures the isolation, the misunderstanding, and the feelings of abandonment.

Job’s friends and his wife are convinced that it is Job’s sin that has led to his misfortunes. That has a familiar ring to people trapped in violent and abusive relationships. “Why did you make him mad?” friends ask. “Why don’t you just leave?”

And inside the relationship, the abuser often threatens even greater harm if the victim tells anyone about what is happening. And if the victim decides to leave, the risk of violence increases, often with lethal consequences.

As Job said of God, “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him…If only I could vanish in darkness and thick darkness would cover my face!” (Job 23:8-9, 17)

Victims of domestic violence – both women and men as well as children – often feel isolated, abandoned by family and friends who are uncomfortable or afraid of the topic, trapped by religious traditions that stress male dominance and the indissolubility of marriage and feel forgotten by God. Job knew that feeling.

Are Christians Supposed to Forgive Abusers?

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“What do I do, Dr. Samples? I love him. I want to forgive him,” she said. “Doesn’t Jesus teach us to forgive? I want to give our life a chance, but I’m scared. What is the right thing to do?”

As a clinician who has worked with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence since my undergraduate training, I know something about the journey of healing she is facing. I know that protective anger is often required for the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Where inter-partner violence occurs, many relationships separate and reunite many times before the final dissolution, and the majority of those relationships become more violent with time.

In relationships where one partner is victimized by another, the most dangerous period of time is when the victim is ending the relationship. Many individuals are injured, permanently disabled, or even killed when they move to dissolve the relationship.

Forgiveness is healing to the soul of the forgiver as well as the forgiven. In addition to the spiritual benefits, those who live a life of forgiveness have better mental and physical health outcomes. Achieving forgiveness of the abuse is often the pathway for a survivor to rebuild new, healthy relationships with others. However, in the case of relationship violence, premature forgiveness of the abuse through reconciliation can place the abused partner (as well as children, family members and coworkers) at greater risk of future harm.

Can Ephesians 5 Make Abuse Seem Normal?

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Intimate partner violence is a pervasive problem in our society. Moreover, while intimate partner violence affects men in addition to women, it disproportionally victimizes women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 47.1% of women experience at least one act of psychological aggression in their lifetime. This aggression can turn physically violent: 31.5% of women experience physical violence in their lifetime, while 22.3% of women are victimized at least once by a severe act of violence. Intimate partners also perpetrate sexual violence. About 8.8% of women are raped and another 15.8% are sexually victimized by a partner in their lifetime. Finally, 9.2% of women are stalked by a partner to the point of fearing for their physical safety.

Given this reality, it is important to recognize that at any given time members of our congregations are suffering various forms of abuse. Such experiences of violence and abuse, past and present, are part of the background that inform the messages that individuals take away from Christian discussions of relationships and marriage — including reflections and sermons on Ephesians 5.