Many homes are not what God intended. Instead of a place where love and acceptance are the norm, violence and abuse are everyday experiences. Domestic abuse knows no boundaries. Educational background, income, class, race, or faith seem to make little difference. Society has long known about spousal abuse, but fear, embarrassment, and practical concerns covered it with a blanket of silence.
The type of man most likely to batter witnessed violence as a child, acts violently toward his children, and needs to control or dominate females.
More than 4,000 women - about 30% of all female homicide victims - die of domestic abuse each year.
More than 3 million women in the United States are battered each year, says the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
When deaths from violence occur, in 85% to 90% of the cases, police had been called to the home for domestic violence at least once during the two years before the killing. In more than half the cases, police had been called five or more times. Often when the woman reports the case to the police, the attacker becomes more violent.
Violence is 14 times more likely to occur after the parties separate. Separation or divorce may only increase the attacker's anger because the woman is no longer under his power.
What you can do:
Look for the signs of abuse: Visible cuts, bruises, black eyes, or other injuries - and her explanations are not consistent with them (For example: I ran into a door knob and got this black eye.); consistently misses appointments or church commitments; is reluctant to invite anyone to her home; seems on edge, jittery, or withdraws; won't stay around to talk with anyone after a meeting or church service because she must hurry home; wears unusually heavy clothing out of season, such as long sleeves in hot weather to cover bruises on her arms; and often wears makeup heavier than usual to hide bruises or marks on her face.
Approach her. If you are a close friend of the victim, approach her privately - definitely not in the presence of her husband. Ask some questions that will help her open up to you, such as: Is everything all right at home? Is someone hurting you?
Help her find a safe refuge. If she and her children need a safe place to go, take them to a domestic violence safety center, to a family member or friend who lives in another county or state, or the home of a volunteer in your church who is unknown to the husband and who can offer a safehouse. Do not take her into your own home if her husband might anticipate her staying with you. Your life could be endangered. If possible, help her financially or arrange for the church to provide her with travel and expense money.
> Don't judge or criticize her. Listen with understanding and support her with your prayers, presence, and some concrete suggestions about what she can do. Let the abused woman know that someone cares for her and that she is created by God as a person of infinite worth. Don't pity her, empower her.
Put her in touch with someone who can help her. Recommend a good attorney and counselor - people who know what to do and how to do it. Become aware of shelters in your community and volunteer to work at a domestic abuse center.
Involve your church. Make sure key people in your church know about domestic abuse, where to go for help, and what precautions should be taken as you reach out to the victims. Create a support group that she knows she can call for help when needed. It is through Christ's church that she can find emotional healing. Be ready to support her financially as well as spiritually.
Women of the world are experiencing hurt every day - losing loved ones, struggling to make peace with a broken past, battling divorce, and facing abuse. God's Heart, God's Hands guides Christian through encounters with hurting women and points to ways of knowing God's heart, being God's hands for them.
----------- Denise George is the author of more than a dozen books dealing with prayer, spiritual growth, and church history. She has written more than 1, 200 articles for magazines such as Redbook, Guideposts, Decision, and HOMELIFE. Denise and her husband, Timothy, have been married for 27 years and are the parents of two teen-agers.
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