In the nation of Colombia, where I ministered last month, a woman is killed by her husband or partner every four days. The problem is so serious that sociologists have coined a new term for it: femicidio, or femicide.
I’ve often quoted the statistics about domestic violence, but when I was in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, I saw the scars up close. The emotional pain I encountered while praying with and counseling women there was excruciating. Some were gang raped as teenagers. Others were sexually molested by relatives. Many had been slapped, punched, choked, kicked or attacked with knives or iron rods by husbands or boyfriends.
Celia (not her real name) had the saddest story. She gave her life to Christ a few years ago, but she maintained an on-again, off-again relationship with a boyfriend whom she admitted was abusive. He screamed at her constantly, he pushed her to the floor on one occasion, and he often told her she was inferior to his other girlfriends.
Yet Celia couldn’t stand it when he stopped calling her. She wanted his attention, even when he called her names and bragged about his sexual conquests with other women.
Why do some women actually want to stay in relationship with men who act like total jerks? It’s a complicated problem, but we can’t use that as an excuse to ignore it. The Christian community must learn to confront domestic abuse if we ever hope to heal the women who suffer from it. In my experience, I’ve found five main reasons why abuse is tolerated:
1. Women feel compelled to keep their abuse a secret. Any form of abuse produces shame. The victim is made to feel she is the guilty one, so she feels compelled to keep quiet about it. In many cultures, relatives enforce this secrecy by insisting that what goes on inside the home stays inside the home. Often a mother will tell her daughter that exposing her husband’s abuse will discredit the family. So a woman is expected to be the scapegoat, bearing the shame for her uncle’s sexual advances or her husband’s beatings.
2. Their fathers abused their mothers. One woman I met in Colombia told me she has always ended up with abusive men in her life, ever since her boss raped her in his office when she was in her early 20s. In counseling we discovered that her father constantly abused her mother physically and verbally—and that her mother stayed in the marriage even though she was miserable. Today, the mother’s agony has been passed down to the next generation. The mother sent a signal to her daughter that women should simply roll over and take abuse.
3. They have lost their self-esteem. Women who are addicted to abusive men don’t become this way overnight. It can start with a lack of affection and affirmation at home. But usually a traumatic experience such as a rape, childhood sex abuse or even a serious bullying incident can trigger the downward spiral. Abuse victims start believing they are worthless—and that they deserve to be mistreated. When this lie has fully metastasized, an abused woman will feel attracted to men who reinforce this sense of worthlessness.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is currently establishing a shelter for abused women in the city of Barranquilla.