Domestic Violence

  Miami Mayor Joe Carollo spent the night in a Florida jail recently after he hit his wife, Maria, in the head with a terra-cotta teapot. Police rushed to the Mayor's mansion after they received a 911 call from the family's frightened school-aged children. "Come help!" the young caller screamed. "My dad is hurting my mom!" Maria Carollo wanted to press charges against her husband, but then changed her mind. Three months earlier, she had announced her plan to seek a divorce from her husband of fifteen years. But, unpleasant as this subject can be, this is just one more public example of the growing problem of spouse abuse. Domestic violence, as this case illustrates, transcends background, education, religion, race, or position. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services reports some four million cases of domestic abuse, primarily against women, every year in this country. A fourth of all hospital emergency room visits, in fact, are by the women abused in these assaults. Although domestic violence has been declining since 1993, it still ranks as the number one health risk for women aged fifteen to forty-four. A third of all women murdered in America are killed by husbands, former husbands, or boyfriends. That's astonishing! In fact, most such homicides take place in the home. The abuse can be physical, as in Maria Carollo's case, with serious injuries to a wife or girlfriend. But it can also be emotional -- with name calling, threats, control, or even rape. While some abusers are female, 95 percent of the victims are women. Surveys show that domestic violence occurs in more than a fourth of all marriages in the U. S. and Canada. Some researchers believe this estimate is low, since most incidents go unreported. And abuse often increases if a wife threatens divorce, separation, or tries to get away from her abuser. Fortunately, today's evangelical churches are beginning to talk about the issue of domestic violence. When Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, for example, offered an eight-week Sunday morning seminar for "hurt and abused women," women from within the church, the surrounding community, and even other states, flocked to the class. Within a caring congregation, they received information about the problem, a sympathetic listening ear, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some churches are forming committees to study spouse abuse issues. Good! They encourage their pastors to speak out against domestic violence from the pulpit, and provide seminars teaching church members how to deal with abused women. Some churches offer programs for young people that teach non-violent conflict resolution. Congregations around the country are ministering to abused women financially as well, helping them settle into community "safe shelters." While churches have long addressed the importance of pre-marital counseling for young couples, today many are offering pre-marital counseling that deals with conflict, violence, and control issues. And they're doing it right up front. Surely, God intends the home to be a loving and peaceful haven, and not a place where teapots are thrown and the police are summoned. But those who abuse others can get help for their problem, and congregations that confront the issue and prepare themselves can render Christ-like service, by reaching out to hurting women and their abusers in Christ's name. For further reference: Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence. "Clinton Tells Congress Renew Domestic Violence Law." Reuters News Online, 26 September 2000. "Domestic Violence Fact Sheet." Administration for Children and Families. "Resources for Domestic Violence." Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse.


Chuck Colson


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