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New Horizons

February, 1997: Domestic Abuse

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Contents

Domestic Violence: What's the Church to Do?

Imagine yourself watching a "real life" police show. In the first clip, police officers, responding to a 911 call, enter the small wood-frame home of Zach, 45, and Elizabeth, 40. He is slightly built and balding, and has a beer belly; she is frumpy, weary, and worried. Two boys, ten and eight, run around the small house in their underwear. Zach, an unemployed logger, spends his days watching sports on TV, drinking, and yelling at everyone. Elizabeth, who works part-time to help financially, fearfully tries to make everything perfect in order to avoid Zach's wrath. Five years ago, Zach threatened to beat the boys severely, and when Elizabeth intervened, he slapped, hit, kicked, and spit on her. Zach's remorse consisted of banging his head against the wall until he bled. He has never hit her since, and figures that making holes in the wall is better than hitting her. Tonight his drinking and threats, including throwing things, triggered her fear and she called 911. She is packing to go to a battered women's shelter.

Next you see Jim, a hardworking Navy NCO in his early twenties. He and his wife, Sheri, have two children—Peter, 5, and Michael, 6 months. After a particularly rough day, when his men had bad attitudes and his CO was critical of him, Jim tried to help Sheri, who was sick. He managed to get some food on the table and watch the boys. Jim's frustration mounted when Mikey would not stop crying—no matter what he tried. In anger, Jim shook Mikey like a rag doll. Mikey shrieked in pain as his head snapped back. Suddenly, Mikey stopped and didn't move. Frightened, his parents took him to the Naval hospital, but lied about the cause of the injury. The police have been called to arrest Jim. Mikey is now permanently brain-damaged and developmentally injured. Jim will go to military prison for a seven-year term for felony child abuse. Peter and Mikey are in foster care. Sheri lives alone. Read more

Helping the Victims of Domestic Violence

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."—Psalm 9:9

Couples who sit peacefully in church pews may nevertheless be at war. Spouses can attack each other, defend ground, employ manipulative guerrilla tactics, and declare occasional truces. When war has been declared, there is sin on both sides, but when violence is involved, a strong man typically oppresses a woman. With God's grace, afflicted women often look to the church for help. When they do, what are some basic biblical parameters that should guide your ministry to them? Read more

Helping the Perpetrators of Domestic Violence

The grace of God ... has appeared.... It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. —Titus 2:11-12

People who publicly sit together in church pews on Sunday morning are not thereby prevented from doing violence to each other once they are in private. Ministry to the violent—like ministry to anyone with immediately destructive sins—demands wide-awake, bold, knowledgeable intervention, full of grace and truth. The perpetrators of battery (like sexual predators) are criminal, as well as wicked and highly deceptive. Read more

 
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