The problem of battered women and children must be understood, dealt with and solved.
THERE are some subjects so gruesome that humans don't want to hear about them. Yet in our world of increasing violence, these problems must be faced. The rising tide of domestic violence, which includes wife beating, child beating and even beating of aging parents, has forced the public to become aware of what, in the past, has been a behind-closed-doors, secret sin.
No Longer Secret
This once-hidden sin is still extremely difficult to discuss publicly. But discuss it we must. While this article was being prepared for the press, I noticed a Los Angeles, California, television station had announced a weeklong segment of their evening news would be devoted to the problem of battered women. I tuned in. The reporter who had worked on the project began the broadcast something like this: "When our program planners suggested a segment on battered women, no one wanted the task of investigating this horrible social problem. We all knew we would find shocking stories, fear, isolation, tears and pain. But we also knew it was our journalistic responsibility to make the public aware of the severity of this problem." I knew how that reporter felt. It is far easier to turn to something much more pleasant to write. But once one focuses on the tragedy of family abuse, no one can shake it from the mind. And by reporting it, we hope that maybe, just maybe, someone will be helped. That some of the abused can escape their plight. We even hope that those who are doing the abusing will somehow see the need to change.
Worldwide in Scope
Our regional office managers around the world investigated this problem in their areas. The truth confirmed our suspicions — it is indeed a shocking worldwide problem. From Europe, Australia, South America, Africa — it mattered not where — attention has been awakened to the problem of battered women and other tragic family abuses. Our West German office sent in translation this official report from the Federal Ministry for Youth, Family' and Health: "From the beginning of the project [a center for abused women and children in Berlin], approximately 2,500 women, and just as many children, came to the abuse center for protection and help in a seemingly hopeless situation. The center was constantly overcrowded — something that almost all abuse homes for women experience shortly after their establishment.... "The experience of the women's homes showed violence against women occurs in all social classes, educational and professional groups." From one of our offices in Africa comes this published summary: "African women have learned a painful lesson about the liberation of their continent from colonial domination. They're still in bondage — to their menfolk. And the continent's men, traditionally absolute masters over their wives, want to keep it that way." That report continued, "Men are up in arms over suggestions ... that husbands should be taken to court if they beat their wives." One postal clerk in Zimbabwe responded to a survey on wife beating, "You cannot talk sense to a woman who nags or is lazy. You must take a stick to her back. That is the custom and all the family agrees." On August 21, 1983, the Los Angeles Times reported the results of a Gallup poll taken in South Korea. In answer to the question, "Have you ever beaten your wife?" more than 61 percent of the South Korean men who were asked said yes. Fewer than I percent refused to reply to the question. To further demonstrate the worldwide nature of this problem the official reports from the Swedish Central Bureau of Statistics for the calendar year 1982 reported these figures: Assault and battery not leading to death and reported to the police involved 28,200 persons (Sweden's population is about eight million). Swedish criminologist Leif G.W. Persson estimates that between 2,500 and 3,000 cases of wife beating are reported to the police each year, but some 30,000 cases of wife beating are known. He estimates there may be more than 250,000 cases of wife beating in Sweden annually. Between 40 and 60 women are beaten to death each year in Sweden. Yet of all these cases fewer than 400 convictions are made and of them only some 20 percent go to jail. For an explanation of the causes of Sweden's social problems, see interview beginning page 22. One of the leading figures in the campaign against women's abuse is Englishwoman Erin Pizzey. After living outside England most of her life, she finally settled back in Britain in 1960. In 1971 she founded a group called Women's Aid and has since set up a number of shelters for battered women. One of her books shockingly entitled Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear recounts the horror stories of scores of British women and children who have sought shelter from both physical and mental abuse. Since the fledgling beginning of her first "safe house" or shelter, everyone that has been opened was almost immediately filled. There is a constant search for property and funding to establish more. Such is the problem in Britain.
Safe houses, shelters for battered women, homes for abused children are only a small part of the answer... noble causes that help as many as they can.
And the United States has equally staggering statistics. During the period when nearly 39,000 American soldiers died in a futile, dirty conflict in Vietnam (between 1967 and 1973), 17,570 women and children died on the home front from family violence. Read the evidence for yourself in one of the most recent books on family abuse, The Family Secret, written by William Stacy and Anson Shupe. According to FBI statistics, a wife is beaten every 30 seconds in the United States. That's more than one million a year! But before we draw the inaccurate conclusion that violence is limited to men against women, we need to realize that another facet of the secret sin that often goes unreported is, strange as it may sound, husband beating. In another recent book on the subject of violence, sociologist Suzanne Steinmetz of the University of Delaware has written a book entitled The Cycle of Violence. She estimates from her studies that each year more than one-quarter million American husbands are beaten and injured each year in domestic violence. Need we go further to demonstrate what a terrible and tragic problem this is all around the world?
To Solve a Problem
Public awareness of this problem is very recent. Few books were published on battered women before 1970. Some of the best-known books are the aforementioned Scream Quietly published in 1974; Battered Women by Marian Roy in 1977; The Battered Woman by Lenore Walker in 1979; and The Family Secret by Stacy and Shupe in 1983. All of these books tell the sorrowful stories of broken-up marriages, women and children driven from their homes, broken bones and bruised bodies left in a wake of unparalleled family violence. They all point out how little has been done until recent years to alleviate the suffering. Now communities, civic groups, law enforcement agencies, concerned neighbors, local, state and national governments are striving to help. Funds are donated and taxes are allocated to help in a variety of ways. Hot line or emergency telephone groups are set up to help those in trouble. Counseling centers have been established. Safe houses or shelters have been set up w here abused women and children can seek refuge. Yet the surface barely has been scratched in solving the problem. Only a small percentage of the abused know how to seek help or have the courage to make the first step by calling a minister, social worker, doctor or the police. Unless checked, family abuse threatens the very fiber of society. It is only one of many scourges in a satanically influenced world that seems to be speeding ever more swiftly to its own self-inflicted destruction.
Why is there so much family abuse? Why do husbands beat their wives? Why do parents beat their children? To a man who has never had even a slight passing thought about hitting his wife, it is unfathomable to think of striking her. In the marriage ceremony he promised to "love her, provide for her and protect her." How can any man abuse his wife in any way? In reviewing one of the above mentioned books on family violence, one book critic observed: "The book is compelling, though almost too much to bear in some places. One stays with it to get answers to the questions that go unanswered: How can they do it? And why do they do it? The authors admit little is known about batterers, just 'armchair speculation' and the unclear pictures of them from the victims." That review demonstrates the frustration nearly everyone feels. Even experts in the field of sociology really don't yet have enough information to draw clear-cut conclusions. What research has brought to light, however, is dispelling the many myths that the public in general presupposes about battered women and those who do the battering. Some of those myths are pointed out by Lenore Walker in her book The Battered Woman. pages 18 to 30: Myth 1: Battered women are only a small percentage of the population. (The truth is millions of women and children are abused all over the world.) Myth 2: Battered women are from minority ethnic groups and from a lower socioeconomic status. (The truth is battered women come from homes in every social strata and ethnic group.) Myth 3: Battered women deserve to be beaten and even get a masochistic pleasure from it, otherwise they would leave. (Again the truth is a self-respecting woman would not want to be beaten. Pain doesn't feel good. And most women who are abused don't leave for several reasons: not having financial support, fear of being hunted down and even more severely beaten, and the fear of what would happen to the children.) There are many other myths Dr. Walker dispels. These listed are only some of the more common misconceptions.
Can We Know the Real Cause?
Family violence has been going on for about as long as mankind has been on the earth. The first recorded family violence was Cain rising up to kill his brother Abel.
Only those who are committing the sin can stop it, and perhaps put together again a family imbued with love for wife and children.
The society that followed was "corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence" (Gen. 6:11, New International Version throughout). God observed "how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time" (verse 5). But why such violence then and now? The answer goes back to the first humans in the garden of Eden. Editor in chief Herbert W. Armstrong has written on this subject for The Plain Truth many times. But the story bears repeating in this context. When the first humans were placed in the garden of Eden, God instructed them. Included was a warning not to eat from one tree in the garden — the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You know the story well. Deceived by Satan the devil, Eve took of the tree. Adam followed suit. What did the tree symbolize? Not merely knowledge of good and evil. They chose the way of deciding for themselves what was right and what was wrong. In other words, they chose the way of human experimentation. Trial and error. They rejected revealed knowledge from God. That's what mankind has been doing ever since. God has permitted it, of course. But God has not left mankind without knowledge. His written word, the Bible, contains the revelation of his will — of how we ought to live. But most people have rejected this revelation of essential knowledge.
Don't Discount the Devil
I realize many skeptics, doubters and agnostics will ridicule the existence of a very real spirit being called Satan or the devil. Nevertheless, his influence is a powerful force behind family violence. When Jesus described the devil he said: "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The Bible further describes the devil as "the god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers" (II Cor. 4:4). And in the book of Revelation, "The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (Rev. 12:9). Satan has tried to pervert or destroy family life as much as any part of God's great creation. The reason should be apparent. Through marriage and the resultant human capacity to reproduce, human beings are given physical life. Each human has the potential to be born into the family of God, to serve in God's government for all eternity and even to be part of the government that will ultimately judge Satan and the rebellious fallen spirits who followed him (I Cor. 6:3). Small wonder Satan has attempted to destroy family life, to pervert child rearing, to demolish love between a husband and wife. Maybe this will explain, if you have not understood it before, why so much of human history has been filled with inexplicable violence and evil. It has simply been a world cut off from God for the most part, experimenting to discover for itself good and evil in a world under the influence of Satan. Modern family violence is no exception.
Then What Is the Answer?
While there are no easy answers to complex questions, there are answers. We can tell you, from the pages of the Bible, how a husband should treat his wife and his children. This problem spans all ethnic, national and socioeconomic boundaries. So the solution must span all these as well. It boils down to whether or not an individual who is abusing his wife or children is willing to apply the way of life that leads to happiness. Safe houses, shelters for battered women, homes for abused children are only a small part of the answer. They are noble causes that help as many as they can. But unfortunately such shelters cannot solve the cause of the problem. Such methods are the best human means so far devised to treat the result. In the end, only those who are committing the sin can stop it, and perhaps put together again a family imbued with love for wife and children. Dr. James Dobson put it as well as I have ever seen it put. While he was not specifically dealing with the problem of family abuse in his book Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives, he said, "If America [or any other nation] is going to survive the incredible stresses and dangers it now faces, it will be because husbands and fathers again place their families at the highest level on their system of priorities!" Nothing could be more applicable to the subject of battered women and children. The first and most important step in treating the cause of family abuse is for men who have become husbands and fathers to realize the awesome importance of their responsibilities. Loving, providing for and protecting a wife is infinitely more important than rising to fame and fortune in the business world. Spending time with, teaching and loving children makes any other accomplishments in this life pale into insignificance. The apostle Paul must have looked into our time today when he described the society of the last days: "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, ABUSIVE, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (II Tim. 3:2-4).
If just one husband who has abused a wife reads this article and sets his will to change, it will well be worth the time and effort.
If that doesn't describe this last half of the 20th century A.D., then I don't know what does. That same apostle gave vivid, explicit and loving instructions on building the proper marital relationships. Here's what he wrote in Ephesians 5:25-29: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy... and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church." What a world it would be if just those verses were applied in marriage! If just one husband who has abused a wife reads this article and sets his will to change, it will well be worth the time and effort. There is simply no excuse at any time and for any reason for a man to hit, kick, bruise and batter his wife — or any woman or child. Peter admonished husbands: "In the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker [physically] partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers" (I Pet. 3:7). When God created mankind in his own image he made Adam, the man, first. But Adam was not complete — he was only half there. God permitted him to experience, for a few hours, what it was like to be alone. In all the animal kingdom there was not a suitable companion for Adam. So God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him and made the first woman, Eve, from his own bone and flesh. Together they could love, share, reproduce. Apart from each other they were unable to accomplish any of these. Woman was not made a subspecies. A lesser creature. A property to be dragged about by a hank of hair. In all human history there has not been a society, ancient or modern, that has fully understood the plain truth. Satan has deceived them all. With God's help though, you can understand. Husbands and wives should never abuse one another, their children or their parents. Their intentions and desire should be one of constant love — growing love — and the establishment and maintenance of a strong family headed by a loving husband and father who guides his responsive family. Then and only then will there be no secret sins of battered wives and children cowering for fear behind closed doors. When God's ways are practiced, family dignity and love abound. It's the only way that will ever work.