“It doesn’t really hurt me.” “Oh, that? We were just playing kick boxing. I bruise so easily these days.” “I can take care of myself.” “She didn’t really mean that, and it really doesn’t bother me.” And so goes on the rhetoric of two kinds of violence I will refer to: Domestic Abuse and Teen Dating Violence.
Steve Mawhorter, a Biblical Counseling Director at a large church in the bay area explained that in their Counseling Ministry experience that domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women in difference circumstances. It is not always a one-sided problem. It is something, however, that is difficult for people to talk about, and a cycle that is hard to break.
Because it is so hard to understand why a human being would allow someone else to hurt them, and then stay in the relationship there are some real barriers to being able to help those caught in this unhealthy and dangerous life cycle. But for those who are in or who have come through such a relationship, it is not so clear cut. One factor is love. The person being abused loves the person who has changed into someone who is physically, emotionally and/or verbally abusive. The abuse didn’t start overnight, usually. After an episode there is typically a seemingly repentant time when the person who struck out says they are very sorry, makes promises that it will never happen again and goes overboard in trying to make it up to their partner. That can be confusing. For someone who wants to believe that people can change, the compassionate make-up of a person can cloud their judgment. And if there are children involved, there is a strong emotional tie, albeit a dangerous one. Fear can keep someone in a dangerous relationship. Typically the abuser will try to isolate their partner – keep them away from family and friends. This heightens the emotional confusion and decreases a support network.
In the book, Ending Violence in Teen Dating Relationships by Al Miles, “dating violence is controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship”. According to Miles, “40 percent of teenage girls ages 14 through 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.” “50 to 80 percent of teens [boys and girls] report knowing someone involved in a violent relationship.”
Controlling behavior can start with a couple of things that might not be taken seriously. One is name calling. There are terms casually slung around these days that have sexual connotations that are very negative especially towards women. Miles quotes Dr. Jill Murray, an expert in the field, that reports that if a boy can call a girl one of these names, “and she’s okay with it, then these boys know they can pretty much do whatever they want with these girls.” Words have great meaning.
Another beginning controlling behavior can be the cell phone. If one dating partner insists that the other have their phone on at all times, this is not only inappropriate for teens, but it means one person has to be available to the other around the clock – and that is controlling.
In domestic violence and teen violence, the ideas of what love should be and how people are to treat each other gets warped and degraded – usually one small incident at a time until there is a dangerous situation with which to deal.
Hear, in stark contrast, the definition of love as explained in I Corinthians 13:4-5a.
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
To help someone in the cycle of domestic or dating violence, become educated by contacting a local domestic violence hotline in your area. In your communities and churches be available if someone needs to reach out and talk. If you recognize the situation make the first move and try to talk with that person who you think might be in danger. Keep the relationship open with the person you want to help and try to break the cycle of isolation. Take opportunities to get that person connected to community services, law enforcement, faith-based organizations or churches, or ministries like Celebrate Recovery that deal with real life issues. Give that person for whom you are concerned the phone number of an emergency hotline number. Organize groups to pray and seek to help those who are in this difficult situation.
Men and women are made in the image of God and therefore all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.