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What lowers your Risk of Intimate Partner Violence? Women Abuse Prevention Month

November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month and my question is does religion foster equality or conflict? It turns out religion can be a force for both. The differentiation is not religion: it is patriarchy. So a better question is: does your religion foster patriarchy?

Man and woman in disagreement
Title page of Chapter 3 of the Study: Is Faith a Force for Good or Ill in the Family?

"When it comes to domestic violence, being religious did not protect couples from Intimate Partner Violence. In fact, roughly 20% of couples experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or controlling behaviours - whether the couple was highly religious, secular, or mixed.

Where there is a spike in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is where couples are patriarchal or believe in patriarchy. The images here are from a study by the Institute for Family Studies.

Let's discuss the data below.

bar chart graph on who is likely to perpetrate domestic abuse
Study shows Patriarchal couples have highest probability of a man perpetrating Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Christians who believe in headship - a male power hierarchy - have levels of Intimate Partner Violence at about the same level as non-religious couples who believe in patriarchy- where the male is in a position of power as the head of the family.

The study shows that believing in or practicing a gender-based hierarchy or patriarchy correlates to domestic violence. When there is a power imbalance, the vulnerable are at risk. The Complementarian Christian concept of male headship authorizes a husband to lead and make decisions and encourages a wife to be submissive in all things. I might go as far as saying headship is patriarchal and that promoting male headship in the family puts women at risk.

In addition, Christian women tend to stay longer in abusive relationships than non-Christians. Pastoral counselling and theological beliefs press Christian women to remain with abusive husbands. Emily Askew quotes a study that found that abuse continued for religious victims on average for 2 years longer than for non-Christians. Scripture has been used to tell women that it is honourable to suffer or that praying will resolve their husband's violence. The message needs to be loud and clear that God does not want his beloved children to suffer, that God cares for the oppressed and defenceless and does not ask us to stay in abusive relationships.

Being Christian doesn't lower your chances of Intimate Partner Violence. Being egalitarian is what has a lower risk of domestic violence. Whether the couple is religious or not, being egalitarian and having a mutual partnership and mutual respect lowers your risk of intimate partner violence. Having freedoms limited creates a power imbalance and has the potential to lead to abuse.

Psychology Today says more women are remaining single until or unless they find a partner who respects them as equal partners. Is financial independence allowing them to remain away from destructive relationships? Does this mean women are getting picky? Or does it mean that men need to meet healthier relationship expectations? Psychology Today says that men need to improve their communication skills and express their emotions.

I have written a series of 3 blogs on gatekeeping. Jesus is our gatekeeper (John 10:9). Only God is authorized to prevent us from acting or speaking. Jesus opened the gate to women learning as disciples when he affirmed Mary of Bethany made the right choice. Jesus opened the gate to women speaking and teaching when he authorized Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples he had risen. Jesus chose to permit us freedom. When understood through the Gospel lens, Paul also permits women to speak and lead. I have written a 4-part series on Paul, beginning with Is Paul Misunderstood? I honour many good gatekeepers in churches who have opened the way for women to follow their calling, In I have discussed gatekeepers vs freedom.

In my #HistoricalFiction Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold, Mara works to overcome her religious, emotional, and sexual trauma.


Note: This post reports on studies of domestic violence but I am not an expert in domestic violence and I recommend you speak to others on that topic. If you are wondering if you are in an abusive relationship, check out these resources:

Natalie Hoffman offers the first chapter free of her book Is It Me? Making Sense of your Confusing Marriage

Domestic Violence Resources from The Recovery Village:

Explore the connection between addictions and domestic violence here:

The government of Canada provides these resources for family violence:

Emily Elizabeth Anderson helps victims of domestic violence, spiritual abuse, and physical and emotional trauma heal from the past:

Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse provides resources to assist victims of sexual assault or abuse:

Gretchen Baskerville provides hope for Christians in destructive relationships:

Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:

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