'When she calls for help' - domestic violence in Christian families
Arts and Humanities
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AbstractViolence in relationships is a common experience for a significant number of women. VicHealth (Australia) has noted that one of the underlying and contributing factors towards violence against women is their environment, citing ‘faith-based institutions’ such as churches as one such environment for many women. Indeed, international research shows that the language of religion is often used by women to explain abuse. Additionally, abused Christian women are more likely to remain in or return to unsafe relationships, citing religious beliefs to support avoidance of ‘family break-ups’ despite abuse. In contrast, however, churches can address domestic violence within a context of care, with emphasis on a theology of biblical equality. This paper examines how domestic violence may be supported by Christian language and belief, and suggests an ‘alternate theology’ concerning religious language in concepts of gender roles, sacrifice, submission, and suffering. It reviews current research on the connection between Christian religious language and domestic violence against women, to highlight the Christian church’s role as a contributing factor to such abuse. Finally, the paper makes some suggestions on how religious language can, in contrast to perpetuating abuse through norms, sever the connections between domestic violence and religious language.