Speaking in God’s name, the prophet Malachi levels
a stinging criticism against the priests of Israel. They have not been
faithful messengers of the truth. Rather than instruct the people in
knowledge they have caused many to stumble. For this reason, God says “I
have caused you to be despised and humiliated.” How strong is this!!
In a similar fashion, Jesus lambasts the Scribes and
Pharisees: “For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy
burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift
a finger to move them.”
We priests (clergy) must take these criticisms to
heart. Jesus reserved his sharpest criticism for pharisaical religion and
uncommitted religious leaders. We must reflect on whether we are preaching the
whole truth without regard for own person or prestige. For this reason, today I
want to address a topic that is seldom discussed in the pulpit – domestic
Domestic violence is an enormous problem in our
community. The statistics prove it is of epidemic proportions.
- Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten
in the United States.
- 1 in 3 or 4 women (30%) is battered
once in her life time. Imagine 1 out of every 3 or 4 women has
- While 58,000 US soldiers died in
Vietnam, 54,000 women were killed by their partners in the US
These statistics would indicate that there are women
among us today in this assembly who have been or still are victims of domestic
violence. Our heart goes out to you. We hope you will find freedom from the
violence, and if you are already liberated, may you find healing for you wounds.
We might think that domestic violence happens in other
communities but not in ours. This is not true. According to sociological
studies, domestic violence occurs equally in every community, no matter whether
it is black, brown or white or rich or poor. Domestic violence is destroying
families and inflicting suffering on women and their children in every
Of course, men are also victims, but only a minority
of victims are men. For this reason, I am speaking primarily about women today.
Many women victims of domestic violence are unaware
they are victims. They may think their husbands just get angry or are
strong-willed; they may excuse a violent outburst because their husbands later
apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Perhaps they are unaware they are victims because
their definition of domestic violence only includes physical violence. In fact,
domestic violence is much broader; it includes physical, emotional or verbal,
economic and sexual abuse.
The definition of domestic violence is a pattern of
behavior based on the use of power and control of one person over another.
Abusers use different ways to exercise their power and control; it may take the
form of physical, verbal or emotional, economical and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse, of course, is relatively easy
to recognize. It includes punching, slapping, kicking, pulling hair, and even
threatening with an instrument or weapon.
Emotional abuse is a lot harder to detect but
many victims say it hurts them more than physical violence. Emotional abuse
includes insults, belittling, fowl words, excessive jealousy and control.
Domestic violence often takes the form of economic
control, especially in cases where the woman works at home. She has no
income and has to ask, if not plead, for every penny she needs for the food and
the children. The abuser exercises control by giving her almost no money and
then belittling her as financially irresponsible.
Sexual abuse is even more common now with such
easy access to pornography on the internet. Abusers might demand their wives
watch pornography, or engage in activities or wear clothes the women find
offensive. Some even force their wives to have sex, which is actually rape.
STORY - The preacher should add a story from
his experience. Here is a sample:
A woman came to see me last week. She asked me to
talk to her husband because he was drinking a lot. I asked her how he was
treating her. “Not well,” she said. “Does he use bad language on you?” “Yes,”
she replied. “What words does he use?” “He calls me stupid and even worse
names, which I am too embarrassed to say.” “Does he hit you?” “No, not
recently.” “How long ago did he hit you?” “Three months ago.” “How did he hit
you?” “With his fist, but he apologized the next day and hasn’t hit me since.
“Does your family know about this?” “No, I am ashamed to tell them.” “Do you
have anyone to talk to or support you?” “No” she said. “Well,” I said, “You
don’t deserve to be treated this way, and I want to support you. I’ll bet you
don’t feel very good about yourself, do you?” “No,” she said. “Well, I want
you to talk to a counselor to build up your self-esteem and make you strong
enough so you can confront your husband’s abusive behavior and figure out
whether how you are going to free yourself from this terrible abuse. If your
husband wants to talk to me, I would be happy to.”
As you can see, this woman is abused both physically
and emotionally. I should have asked her about the possibility of economic and
sexual abuse as well.
Domestic violence is learned behavior, meaning
it is not inherited; it is not genetic. Since it is learned, it can be
unlearned or changed. But male abusers do not easily abandon their violent
ways. They need to be challenged and held accountable for their actions.
Some abusers will excuse themselves by blaming
alcohol or drugs, or perhaps they claim it’s the stress that makes them violent
or the abuse they suffered as children. All these factors may very well
aggravate their violence but they are not the cause.
Some men even blame their victims, claiming that if
their partners were better wives or housekeepers, better mothers or more
responsible, they themselves wouldn’t get so mad. Basically they blame the
victim, when the real reason for their abuse is their desire to exercise power
and control over their partner.
After severe episodes of violence, whether beatings,
yelling or threats, abusers generally become remorseful. They apologize and
ask for forgiveness while at the same time blaming the victims for having
caused the violence they themselves perpetrated. This is called the honeymoon
stage and it is highly unlikely to continue. The change of mood, however,
confuses the victim, as she begins to think he might change. In fact, abusers
rarely change. Soon the tension will begin to build again as he pursues his
goal of maintaining power and control. Abusers will not change until they are
held accountable for their violence.
Most women victims of domestic violence struggle to
liberate themselves from their abuser. But it’s difficult to accomplish.
Often we don’t understand why they just don’t pick up and leave their abusers.
But it is not easy. Let’s review some reasons why women victims do not