Some survivors of domestic violence found the recent article from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) hard to read. After some discussion and reflection I realised that, to us, it reads as an outsider looking in, who assumes her audience is only made up of outsiders. It seems to us that the goal of the article is to provide comfort those outsiders, who are failing to understand a tragedy. In itself this is not a bad goal to have. But at a time when victims and survivors are struggling, no comfort is found here for them, and sadly this article has the potential to compound the guilt and shame we feel.
Almost by definition DV has never been about the victims. It has always been about how the rest of society feels. The reason that society doesn’t know what goes on behind closed doors, and doesn’t even see what is happening right in front of it, is that we all want our world not to have those things in it. So outsiders don’t look, don’t ask, and are horrified when the realities are brought out into the open. Society wants to pretend it’s not us, not our sisters, not our friends, not our daughters. It is. 25% of Australian women have reported experiencing domestic violence, 1 in 6 women have reported experiencing physical (including sexual) violence.
The author of the piece wants to believe (and also wants us to believe) that Domestic Violence makes no sense. Domestic Violence makes all kinds of sense for those who have lived it. I completely understand what my abuser was doing. It was definitely wrong, but I understand it. At least 25% of the women who read the TGC article were not surprised by Hannah Clarke’s death. The story made sense to them because it matches their lived experience. It is worth noting that some of the trauma we experienced as a result of Hannah Clarke’s death was triggered by the well-meaning but uninformed discussion that followed. The discussion amongst my peers about this article included at least one woman who did not want to read it for exactly that reason.
DV is evil, and wrong, and unjust, but that does not mean it doesn’t make sense. In Genesis 1-3 we meet the first people and watch them sin. We hear the first recorded gas-lighting from the snake, who tells Eve that she misheard and/or misunderstood God. We hear two people attempting to twist facts in an attempt to control their narrative, to control their own lives. It’s every kind of wrong, it is literally the original sin, but it does make sense.
Telling ourselves it makes no sense is othering. It suggests that the sorts of people who read this article would only do things that make sense. They would never be part of something that doesn’t make sense. For the rest of us, who are part of the at least 25% of women who experience DV, and who also know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we are left wondering again why did we allow it to happen to us? For those of us who were (or are still) in ministry, why did we allow something that didn’t make sense to happen? Have we misunderstood Jesus?
DV is wrong, because Jesus said to us to love God, and love one another. If you love God and you love other people then you are not hitting or raping or killing or controlling or yelling at a person made in God’s image.
I feel that this article was written to comfort the outsider looking in, who doesn’t understand how these things happen in the world. I’d like to take a moment to comfort the insider. God is sovereign over all the world, over everything he has made.
People are responsible for their actions and their choices. When someone chose to hurt you, to control you, to bully you, to neglect you, to rape you, to kill you, they made a wrong choice. You are not responsible for their actions, they are, and they will receive the punishment for their sin. Perhaps not in this life, but they will. God promised that. God is also not responsible for their actions, they are. People are responsible for their own actions. You did not cause it, you did not deserve it. Jesus loves you, and he died for you. You do not need to die for you again.
We are so sad that Hannah and her children’s lives were taken from them by the sinful actions of one man. We ask that you comfort their extended family as they grieve the loss. We pray for all women and children who are experiencing abuse, and ask that you give them freedom, safety and a place to heal. We pray for those who have no experience that you open their eyes and ears, and strengthen them to move past their shock, and to take steps to change the world we live in.