Domestic violence; a cultural behavior?

Confronting Domestic violence in our midst

Domestic Violence, a Cultural Behavior?

I am part of a world which cultural tendency is to legitimize the supremacy of men in society; and it is typical to see a woman under the dominion of a man, which also implied a potential violence and sexual abuse. The macho is the abuser, and woman is the victim.

Domestic violence is not  circumscribed to a specific geographical location; it is a universal issue and it is presence around the world in different levels and forms; however, in my ministry we do not excuse it as merely cultural behavior,because we see in it the presence of sin and evil destroying personas and relationship; and because the gospel confront any kind of aggression, domination, and brutality against neighbors; particularly the most vulnerable, women, children and elders.

Sometimes I have counseled women that domestic violence is wrong from a pastoral perspective, and husbands object. For example, after such counseling of the wife, a husband never came back to our church, and he once told me, “Why you teach things that make me lost power over my wife? I think you are teaching no Christian doctrine; because the bible said the women must be submitted to the husband.”

This theological approach from that husband shows how “Christian” teaching is really betrayed by culture, which tendency is to legitimate the perpetuation of machismo-culture in detriment of woman, and make admissible the cultural violence as a “natural” role of domination of men at home, work, communities, church, in politic, and economy.

Yes, there are also several atypical cases where women victimize men, and during counseling, I learned that domestic abuses are not strictly subscribed to physical body abuses; that also implied emotional, verbal, and spiritual brutalities.

There are important characteristics that pastors and other counselors need to look for.

The repertory of violence includes grotesque physical abuses, some others subtle aggressions, like attitudes, gestures to make her feel inferior in public or in private as well; also includes economy violence, and threaten with migration and deportations.

Domestic violence is a social issue and it sponsored by a permissive culture of aggression. There is a very folkloric saying in rural’ Hispanic fathers to his son the day of the wedding: “Son if you want to be the man in your house, you might hit your wife the first day of your matrimony, and she will be submitted to you forever.

Sadly this culture of aggression is sustained by spouses or partners, believing that is a normal or a natural part in any matrimony, and she would remain in silence any aggression, stating that “he punishes her because she fail all the time, and he has the right to do that”. No one would make a question about it.

Anti-domestic violence church teaching can make a difference.

A case story.

Delia was a victim of sexual and physical abuses by her husband since she was 16 years old.

She was a victim of sexual and physical abuses by her husband since she was 16 years old.

When she came to our church began to learn justice as God ethic at home development, and she stated once in public, “I didn’t know that husband aggression is not a normal way in matrimony, I thought was normal because I grew up in this way in my own home; my father used to abuse my mother and that attitude still present in their old age. My brothers used to hitting me all the time just because they are men; however, my mom never opposes it, stating, “they are your brothers and they get the right to correct you.” I was taught was normal, and for the first time I know, and affirm my suspicion that it is wrong and men had been abused at me. I believed that was normal, natural, that every couple must be living in that way.”

Resulted obvious to me that Delia was victim of a cultural behavior as well was involved in a micro-structure of sin and evil, manifested in fear and silence, as signs of oppression against herself and to her mother, vulnerable members of the family structure.

Mary Potter Engel, while is touching the feminist liberation theology, helps us to re-read the gospel from the perspective of the oppressed to make changes in a society already structured to reproduce sin and evil, particularly in domestic violence. She said that we must paid attention “to reconstruct the creation doctrines of male-female relations, marriage and family, and the mind-body relationship, to the reconciliation doctrines of grace, forgiveness and healing, …Recognizing that all doctrines need to be reworked from the perspective of the liberation of the vulnerable from sexual and domestic abuse;” which emphasis is focused in sin and evil. (Evil, Sin and Violation of the Vulnerable, pg. 154)

Women and men are valuable in scripture as images of God, sadly there is an ideological interpretation to minimize women-values before the supra-valuation of men; this is the sin, also manifest the presence of evil, because of produces structures of domination, and systemic actions of oppression, imposing wickedness to women.

It is challenging to confront the structures of sin, that triggers evil in human relations, but this is the call of God, and church must respond historically to this called in our midst and now, to face the reality, in which all human are involved reproducing the structure of sin and evil at home; using the same categories of domination and oppression to women, children, and elders, also potential victims of abuses.

A doctrine in perspective of liberation includes men and women to re-learn about the power of the grace, justice, and love to heal victims and to transform victimizer’ behavior; while helps them to learn how important are both that the scripture says that man and women as well are image of God, according to Gn. 1:26-28.





4 thoughts on “Domestic violence; a cultural behavior?

  1. The movies and images you selected are extremely effective and convey your message very clearly. I thought the “Between Worlds” one on immigrant women and domestic violence was especially poignant. As one born and raised in America, I have an ability to navigate the system to see what help is available; many immigrants do not. And the church does bear a responsibility – to atone for the times it has fostered abuse, and to direct survivors to sources of protection.


  2. Thank you for your insights. Author Rita Nakashima Brock opened my eyes to the complicity of the church in suggesting that it is a woman’s duty to accept the violence of husbands and lovers by pointing to the suffering Jesus endured. After reading her book Proverbs of Ashes I was tempted to run screaming away from Christianity. I could not fathom how any representative of the church could suggest a woman must accept an abusive situation.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s