Let us rise above cultural teachings that are wrong, and start to live as the Bible says.
By Rev SEIK PITOI
DOMESTIC violence is a big problem all over the world.
Regardless of the level of sophistication or crudeness of the society or nation, the ugly scourge of domestic violence, or specifically, violence against women and girls, will always be found. We in PNG are no exception.
Violence in the home is the wilful intimidation or physical and sexual assault perpetrated by one partner against another, especially a domineering male over his spouse. The violence is not only physical and sexual, but also includes psychological and emotional abuse. The epidemic of domestic violence often results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and in severe cases, even death. The physical, emotional, and psychological consequences can cross generations and last a lifetime.
Abuse in relationships
There may be small tell-tale signs in a relationship that a person will become violent in later years. His hot temper or simple acts of jealousy in the beginning stages of the relationship may give him away. However, with her head in the clouds, the glassy-eyed young bride-to-be often glosses over these indicators, taking them as her boyfriend showing his affection for her.
Later, as the young couple marry and begin their journey in life together, problems may arise in time, such as marital unfaithfulness on the part of the husband who never thought he could be swayed away from the love of his life. Suddenly, he is caught out, initially denying the act, and then becoming violent to cover his wrongs. So begins the cycle of violence in the home.
Abusers gradually become more aggressive and controlling over time. They may begin with behaviours that may easily be downplayed such as possessiveness, or distrust. They may apologise profusely for their actions or try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care.
However, violence and control always intensify over time with an abuser, despite the apologies. What may start out as something that was first believed to be harmless (e.g., wanting the victim to spend all their time only with them because they love them so much) escalates into extreme control and abuse (e.g., threatening to kill or hurt the victim or others if they speak to family, friends, etc.).
Some examples of abusive tendencies include, but are not limited to:
- Accusing the victim of cheating;
- Keeping or discouraging the victim from seeing friends or family members;
- Embarrassing or shaming the victim with put-downs;
- Controlling every penny spent in the household;
- Looking at or acting in ways that scare the person they are abusing;
- Controlling who the victim sees, where they go, or what they do;
- Dictating how the victim dresses, wears their hair, etc;
- Stalking the victim or monitoring their victim’s every move (in person or also via the internet and/or other devices such as GPS tracking or the victim’s phone);
- Preventing the victim from making their own decisions;
- Threatening to hurt or kill the victim’s friends, loved ones, or pets
- Intimidating the victim with guns, knives, or other weapons;
- Pressuring the victim to have sex when they don’t want to or to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
- Forcing sex with others
- Pressuring or forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol, and;
- Preventing the victim from working or attending school, harassing the victim at either, keeping their victim up all night so they perform badly at their job or in school.
Domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim. In fact, the victim is often in the most danger directly following the escape of the relationship or when they seek help.
Unfair blame is frequently put upon the victim of abuse because of assumptions that victims choose to stay in abusive relationships. The truth is, bringing an end to abuse is not a matter of the victim choosing to leave; it is a matter of the victim being able to safely escape their abuser, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, or others (e.g., law enforcement, courts) holding the abuser accountable for the abuse they inflict.” (Source – www.ncadv.org).
Domestic violence is a big problem in Melanesia. Culturally, people are taught that females are inferior to males, and with the payment of ‘bride price”, many men think they have purchased property. That means, he can do as he likes in going out with other ladies while she is not to do or say anything because she ‘has been bought’! This is wrong.
Because many of us call ourselves Christians, we must realise that we are subject to “Biblical Culture”. God’s Word is supra-cultural, in that, it is over and above all cultures of mankind which are tainted with sin (Gen 3). While we have many wonderful traits found in our cultures, when it comes to how we are to treat our womenfolk, we must obey the Bible. The Bible tells us:
- Woman was created from the body of man – not from his head to rule over him; nor from his feet to be trampled on by him – but from his side, to stand equal with him! (Gen 2:21-22). Treat your wife as your equal in God’s eyes.
- God has His roles for marriage spelt out in the Bible:
- Women are to submit to and respect their husband as their family head, as they would to the Lord (Eph 5:22, 23). Respect his place of authority. When making decisions, make helpful suggestions, but allow him the final say. If it fails, he wears it – not you!
However, before we charge the Bible with male chauvinism, please note the balance to this –
- Men are to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loved the Church and died for her (Eph 5: 25). Jesus forgave the church (His Bride) of her sins, loves and cares for her, provides for her and protects her. He also died for her to give her life. That is what God expects of every husband to do for his wife, and no less. A man is to sacrificially love and respect his wife, provide for her and protect her – not hurt her! Only when a man loves his wife unconditionally will she show heartfelt submission to his headship!
- A man sets examples for his sons by how he treats the women in his home. His love and respect for his wife (their mother) and his daughters will set a worthy example for his sons to follow. Sons who abuse their wives usually grew up witnessing abuse of their mother by their father. And so the cycle continues.
In society, the church is called upon to preach against violence against women and girls. The church has a moral duty to teach what the bible says about gender equity, respect for women and girls, and God’s plan for the home. The best way to “preach” this to the community is “live” it.
Pastors, church leaders and members should love and honour their wives in such a way that non-believers will begin take note. But when violence against women is practiced in the homes of Christians, we have lost the plot!
Domestic violence does not always end when the victim escapes the abuser. Often, it intensifies because the abuser feels a loss of control over the victim.
One church circuit in the Southern Highland has decided to do something about it.
On Thursday Oct 31, the women of Upper Mendi, including female teachers at a nearby primary school, dressed in black as a sign of mourning and marched solemnly through their community of Pongol and Wongia. They stopped at market places along the way where they gave speeches decrying violence against women.
When they reached their place of ministry, they attracted quite a large audience. Sermons and drama depicting violence in the home were presented by the women. The minister, Rev Komuna, said the message was well-received by the people, especially the men, who were challenged to change the way they treated their wives.
Because of its success, the programme for next year will include inviting other churches to participate.
“Our society needs a combined effort from churches to stand together against this big problem,” he said.
Finally, God’s word is above culture. Let us rise above cultural teachings that are wrong, and start to live as the Bible says. We must show respect for the women in our lives – our mothers, sisters, daughters and our wives! Only then will PNG move forward as a blessed nation under God!
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.