Patriarchy And Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions -- By: Steven R. Tracy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:3 (Sep 2007)
Article: Patriarchy And Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions
Author: Steven R. Tracy


Patriarchy And Domestic Violence: Challenging Common Misconceptions

Steven R. Tracy

Steven Tracy is professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary, 4222 East Thomas Road, Suite 400, Phoenix, AZ 85018.

I. Introduction: The Significance Of The Issue

In spite of significant attention given to the topic of domestic violence in the United States in recent years, evidenced particularly by the Violence Against Women’s Act enacted in 1994,1 domestic violence continues to be a massive problem with enormous individual and societal consequences. The scope and consequences of domestic violence are often misunderstood and rarely addressed in the evangelical church, resulting in abuse victims and perpetrators not receiving essential ministry. For instance, in Maricopa County where I live, our community leaders conducted a survey of six hundred women to improve services to battered women. Roughly 85% of the women surveyed indicated that they were Christians; 57% attend church; 35% indicated they had experienced physical abuse in a past relationship; and yet only 7% felt they could confide in a church leader if they felt unsafe due to their partner’s abuse.2 In another study of 1,000 battered women, 67% indicated they attend church, one-third sought help from clergy, but of those who sought help, two-thirds said their church leaders were not helpful.3 Thus the evangelical church must begin to address this pressing problem.

While women are also often initiators of intimate partner violence and initiate violent acts almost as often as men,4 gender parity is non-existent when it comes to violence. The fact is that male violence against women is far more damaging; generally occurs in a far different context (aggressive

dominance versus self defense);5 and typically has a more pernicious meaning (establishment of control) than does female violence.6 For instance, according to a Justice Department analysis of crime, more than 40% of adult female hospital emergency room visits are caused by violence at the hand of a male intimate partner, whereas violence by intimates caused less than 5% of male emergency room visits.7 According to the National Crime Victimization survey, in 1998 women experienced almost 900,000 violent offenses at the hands of an intimate partner—a rate ...

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