DOMESTIC ABUSE AND VIOLENCE
When we talk of abuse in the home, we are talking about the abnormal behaviour to, or abnormal treatment of, a family or household member; viz, a husband or a wife or a child. This is because violence or abuse was never part of the terms of a marriage covenant so it is an abnormality, an aberration, ab-use. Children are a heritage of God and are only given to us to love, care for, guide, protect and train for Him. Violence speaks of severe abnormal behaviour to or treatment of a household member which is likely to lead to harm or death.
Abuse/violence can be physical or mental and occurs everywhere in the society; yes, even in the Church, sad to say. And abuse/violence occurs among all social groups of the society – from up-town to down-town, from the city to the smallest hamlet. Domestic abuse/violence is not always against the woman, it can be against the husband as well. The very worst form of abuse is against the children; as the child feels betrayed and wounded because the aggressors are the very people whom the child trusted to protect him/her! Sadly, this is becoming very common these days, especially sexual abuse of the child! Domestic abuse also includes any form of maltreatment of a domestic servant but we shall not delve into that in this study; suffice to say that God fully expects us to treat them like members of the family.
Five living examples of domestic abuse
I shall start my discourse by giving us five vivid examples I encountered mostly in medical practice; involving different strata of the society. Three were against women, one was against a man and one against children. Two are examples of physical violence/abuse and two of mental abuse; the abuse against children is always mental as well as physical because a child is just not programed, physically and mentally, for sexual activity! In one case of mental abuse, it led to the death of the victim in an indirect way.
Three of the cases happened as far back as the late 70’s and early 80’s when I was a medical officer in a Military hospital in Lagos; but fatal domestic violence is so traumatic that it may never be erased from one’s memory when you witness it and its horrific effects.
- I was on call one evening in the late 70’s and a tall big woman was carried in. She had been engaged in a physical fight with her husband and she fell and hit her head on a hard object, likely the floor, and went limp. She was a BID, brought in dead. Her husband was a federal senior civil servant.
- I was on call this time at a Cantonment in 1980 in the evening when the wife of an “other-rank” soldier was brought in dead. She had just had a baby and an argument broke out between her and her husband and he gripped her head with his arm under his armpit and refused to let go despite all entireties. He was shocked when she went limp and dropped into the arms of those who have been trying to extract her from his deadly grip. Another BID.
In both cases the husbands never meant to hurt their wives; oh no! …they just wanted to teach them a lesson! In both cases, the husbands were in shock and we had to leave the dead and first attend to them and sedate them!
- Still in the early 80’s, the wife of a senior civil servant totally lost her mind and walked out of their marital home in Lagos soon after having a set of twins. She was found in Abeokuta three weeks later after the family placed a missing person’s notice on TV. The police had found her wandering about in her nightie and kept her at the station from where she was then retrieved by her family. Her mental instability was triggered by her husband’s infidelity and torture by his strange woman who was older than both of them and was even her husband’s senior in service. The strange woman had the habit of calling the wife up and mocking her for living with a man ‘‘who did not love her’’. The poor wife believed that lie and her sense of self-worth was so shattered that one day after they had brought her back from Abeokuta, she took a pair of scissors and began to cut her own throat! Blessedly she was rescued before she cut any major blood vessel and rushed to the hospital where I worked, and the surgeons patched her up and even sent her to the UK for some reconstructive surgery. We also made sure she had psychiatric treatment and counseling. It was no use, within two years she succeeded in killing herself by poisoning.
- A seven-year-old was brought in with vaginal discharge which the Paediatrician thought was just a simple thing until she examined the child and found that her hymen was gone! Ha! Who did this?? This was in the early-80s and it could never ever have occurred to us then that the culprit was her own father, a senior federal civil servant!! Further investigations revealed that he had been sexually abusing her older sister as well, his own ten-year-old daughter and also his wife’s thirteen-year-old niece, picking them up as soon as they reached a certain age suitable for the pervert! Fast-forward to year 2020 – During the lockdown, numerous teenagers were impregnated by their own fathers according to the lamentations of many state Commissioners in charge of Women and Youth Welfare in Nigeria!! What a shameful tragedy!!
Let me end these distressing stories with one which ended on a good note –
- This was the case of a man who was mentally abused by his wife. These were young and also immature Christians who had to get married because the woman became pregnant. The man was still struggling with admission exams to enter university while the woman had graduated and soon started working in a well-paying firm in an up-town area after their marriage. The husband then had to forget about school and began to hustle in business to fend for his family; but it became an uphill task and he was bringing home less and less resource as time passed. She soon began to resent having to carry most of the financial burden of the family and began to mentally torture the man, disrespecting him and downright having open affairs with other men.
We gave them Dr. D. K. Olukoya’s famous prayer book, Prayer Rain, and he would use it but she was too busy with work and used to come home too tired to pray all those our rigorous MFM prayers. He went for deliverance at an MFM Church nearby and at some point, it was discovered that the wife had a vicious spirit husband.. but she just did not believe in such things. By the time the marriage was in the seventh year, they decided to separate because things were not working out despite counseling sessions with their Pastor and wife – not an MFM Church. And within a year she divorced him and moved on. By this time the man had been so traumatized and had lost so much weight that one of his own aunties could not recognize him at first glance when they met at a wedding!!
Meanwhile, he had moved in with his mother who is a member of MFM and he began to go to Church with her and went for our rigorous week-long deliverance program every other week until he had done four sessions over a period of seven weeks!! At night, he and his mother would have night-vigils, using Dr Olukoya’s tapes. At the end of nine months, he went to see the Man of God for prayers and within weeks he had gained admission into his desired federal government university through a method which became known to him mysteriously; and in his fifth and final year, he got a good job with a British firm which needed a representative in Nigeria.
Predisposing factors to domestic abuse
Now, while there is absolutely no excuse for domestic abuse, let us look at a few factors which may lead to violence/abuse in the home –
- A misconception of what marriage is all about, leading to unrealized expectations. Many marry solely with their own personal benefits in view; and therefore, their focus is only on what their spouses will be to them and what he/she will do for them. “Me, me, me”, period. This is the very opposite of divine order and any change of divine order always leads to frustration and chaos. Marriage is actually a ministry where a man and a woman come together to minister to each other so help each other to fulfill their divine destinies…
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.
The word benevolence the above Corinthian passage must not be taken to refer to only physical intimacy at all as many have taught in the past. No, it refers to the whole relationship. The word benevolence is all-encompassing and describes the general attitude that the couple must have towards each other at all times. ‘Benevolence’ means ‘’the doing of kind things for others, a disposition to do good, well-meaning to others’’.
To buttress the fact that marriage is a ministry, God gives a strange admonition to women in Jer.31:22 KJV –
How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.
When we check other translations of the Bible, the word compass is also translated as to surround, protect, woo, win her husband; and the full meaning of the passage is that the woman must realize this as her divine assignment in marriage and must not shun it because the man needs it. Having been created as a help-meet for the man, her duties include lavishly nourishing her husband with love, tenderness, prayers and all that is needed to help him to achieve his destiny in God. Beloved, this can only be achieved by gentle wooing, winning, surrounding…all pointing to submission, to God in prayers and to the man in love.
As for the man, he must love her sacrificially, provide for and protect her just like Christ does for the Church. He must govern their home, guide her and nourish her lovingly to become what God wants her to be and what he himself needs her to be to him as his wife and life-partner. This is the man’s responsibility to his wife…
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Couples must never imagine that they received a finished product on the day they marry, no. The divine order as we read in those passages above is that a divine assignment of nourishing and moulding with benevolence starts on the wedding day for both the husband and the wife.
- Some take the route of violence as means of expression likely because they do not really know how fragile the human body and the human soul/mind are. A lot of damage can be done with cruel words and a man can kill a woman with a single blow to the wrong part of her body or if she falls under a seemingly minor blow and hits her head heavily. We must therefore make up our minds, and teach our children also, that physical and mental abuse/violence are just not accepted options to be used as weapons against another human being. A person that is responsible for the death of another human being can never be the same again because blood will cry for vengeance, even to generations to come.
- It takes two or more to fight; therefore, one must learn to keep quiet when the other is angry. And when one party is actually raging, I suggest you actually use wisdom and find a way to flee the scene! Self-preservation is not cowardice – it is an instinct put in every creature by God Himself. I have found that most women who get regularly beaten by their husbands are women with sharp tongues who do not know when to keep quiet! It is foolish and fatal pride to insist on having the last say in a volatile atmosphere; you are simply taking an unnecessary risk; because that last say may well be the last word you will utter on earth! As well, some women do not know when to approach their husbands about issues that may lead to arguments. The fight that led to the deaths of the two BID women whose stories are told at the beginning of this study, occurred in the evening when the men had just come back from work and would have been worn out and irritable from the rigors of his job; and likely the stress of Lagos traffic added to it all. Wives must know their husbands well enough to discern how to wait and watch his mood before broaching a sensitive matter.
Having said that, self-control in the face of provocation can only come to a person as a result of Christian maturity, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit of God. A Christian who is matured in the faith will just not lash out at a beloved one, especially a weaker vessel, either physically or verbally, no matter the provocation. We all have need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit until He produces in us that fruit of the Spirit called Temperance/Self-control. And the option of leaving the tense scene should never be overlooked.
- I dare say also that many people, even Christians, actually sadly do not allow God to lead them to their right spouses and they end up marrying the wrong person! In medical science, this is akin to giving a patient the wrong blood type or transplanting an organ from an incompatible donor! The result is sure – there will be chaos and the body will react violently against the foreign blood or organ in a desperate attempt to get rid of it!! This is because of the way God separated a woman from her husband at creation – He took a rib-bone from the man’s rib-cage to make the woman specifically for him; just the same way Eve was taken from Adam’s side. And that is the only woman that can fit into his body again without chaos and rejection.
The woman fashioned from a particular man’s rib 6,000 years ago on the last day of creation, can be anywhere in the world and nobody can ever know who that woman is except God Who created both. Therefore, the onus lies on every child of God to have a close working relationship with God so that He can lead him/her to that correct spouse as He led Eve to Adam and Eliezer to get Rebecca for Isaac. In Gen.24:7, Abraham said to Eliezer,
The LORD God of heaven, which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that sware unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
That is the divine order and pattern which Abraham, our Father in faith, used to get a wife for his son and it must be our pattern and order as well or there will always be mismatching; like Samson and his three Philistine wives whom he chose because, as he put it, she pleaseth me well. These are the marriages that frequently lead to abuse, violence and eventually divorce or even death by violence of one against the other.
- When it comes to child-abuse, the factors usually relate to a dysfunctional relationship between the parents and they just lash out at the children verbally and physically because of their pain. Corporal punishment is totally Biblical, but the child must not be beaten in anger and never hard enough to cause physical damage to the body. The Bible always talks of a rod of correction, so using other objects to punish a child is not acceptable. Lately we read of a grandmother who used a broom to beat her ward and damaged an eye! Other forms of punishment like grounding them or denying them of pleasures like watching TV will suffice in many cases. Resorting to the rod is just a more painful reminder that bad actions have bad consequences when other methods fail. As for sexual abuse of a child by the parent… now that is totally demonic and a father who lusts after his own child urgently needs to be separated from that child. He also needs deliverance, fast! And so does the child who has been abused sexually.
The role of the Church
- We the Flock of Christ must routinely be made to undergo discipleship and taught how to be led by the Holy Spirit to always walk with God in righteousness and holiness until the fullness of the Fruit of the Spirit is evident in us – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, temperance/self-control 5:22,23. This will ensure that our choices match those of God for us at all times; and consequently, it will be difficult to make a wrong choice when the time comes to be led to our divine bone and flesh in marriage. This is the only way to drastically reduce mismatches in marriage among us. When you make your divine choice in marriage, it comes with enough divine grace to bear each other’s weaknesses since they were actually originally one person, one bone and flesh before God separated them when He created the woman out of the man. Paul confirms this truth when he said no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it. Eph.5:29. Yes, this is how a man will automatically treat his wife when he allows God to bring him his own flesh and bone, like Adam did.
- The Church must have Spirit-filled marriage-counselors who are grounded in the Word of God so that they can guide courting couples aright and also counsel those in crisis with the Mind of Christ. And in the case of anyone in real danger of violence, the couple must be separated from each other for a season so that tragedy is averted. Older Christians must be ready to make their homes available to keep the one who is in danger – wife or husband – until the issues are resolved with prayers and deliverance and more counseling. I know of a case where a Pastor’s wife had to be separated from her husband because he was ready to kill her! And he boasted saying that he will get away with it as one “Baba Suwe” got away with killing his wife! Imagine that! They had to live apart for 13 months before they came back together again, stronger in their love, and teaching about unity and reconciliation in the home and in the Body of Christ.
We must not be overly sanctimonious and regard temporary separation to save a life as unBiblical. The Bible says in Amos 3;3, Can two walk together except they agree? Here, God is referring to His relationship with Israel which is the divine model for our earthly marriage relationship. The couple can still come back together when the point of disagreement has been thrashed out THOROUGHLY between them with Christian counselling, family support and much prayer with fasting. Many women tragically get killed soon after being sent back to their husbands when they sought refuge in their parents’ homes!! A woman killed her husband in his sleep the night before she travelled; following family meetings where it was agreed that she should take a break abroad. Couples must never be left alone with each other once one of them had threatened, or even tried, to kill the other! An unmarried daughter living in her parents’ home is incomparable to a dead one in the grave.
….an expanded edition of a teaching given at an MFM Women Foundation program in Lagos on 10th June 2015