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Over the last 3 weeks, Christian media has been plastered with the news of US Gospel singer James Fortune pleading guilty to domestic abuse after assaulting his wife and children. Questions such as, ‘Were the congregation not aware?’ and ‘Why did no-one intervene?’ were asked. With domestic abuse affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the UK, it is very likely that people within your congregation are unknowingly victims of domestic abuse too, and unfortunately, our ‘mind your own business’ culture is playing a factor in the reasons why people don’t get involved. So, here are 6 possible reasons why that might be the case:
1. Everything ‘seems’ rosy
As the saying goes, “Things aren’t always what they seem” and sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the ‘happy and content’ exterior and believe the hunch (or the signs) that something isn’t quite right.
2. Don’t want to choose sides
“Who to believe?” Being a mutual friend of both parties can make things complex and leave individuals feeling like they might be choosing sides if they happen to be closer to the victim or abuser.
3. Don’t want to get involved
Loyalties, being privy to confidential information, along with fear and embarrassment can be some of the reasons why people turn a blind eye.
4. It doesn’t happen in church, right?
That doesn’t happen does it? Of course it does and unfortunately that kind of response is an indication that abuse still remains a bit of a taboo subject. If church is supposed to be a place for the sick, it shouldn’t be a surprise that victims and abusers are among you in your congregation.
5. Blurred lines
What constitutes abuse? Observing repetitive hurtful remarks between couples, seeing an unusual bruise on a friend’s body (with a sketchy explanation), being told by your friend that he/she was punched for the first time by their partner? Where is the boundary crossed and what’s ‘normal’ for them?
Can the woman be the abuser? Definitely, this is one of the most stereotyped factors, as people don’t usually expect that men can be the victims of domestic violence, even if the red flags are there.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence hotline 0808 2000 247. It’s a free and confidential service available 24 hours a day, alternatively please visit their website.