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What’s so “Domestic” About Violence? - An ON Scripture Feature

Philippians 4:1-9, A Reflection By Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder

I carry a purple purse. I actually bought it three years ago to treat myself to something new. Many women have complimented it, honestly to my surprise. Not that the purse is atrocious, but it does not carry a Gucci, Michael Kors, Coach, Chanel or any other tony label. It is just a purple purse that fits me and holds my essentials, and sometimes those of my children. Until recently I had not given any second thought to having a purse the color of Barney. Sorry I could not resist.

While reading all of the commentary about professional athletes and abuse, as if they are the only people who offend, I came across a public service announcement for the Purple Purse Campaign. What an a-ha moment. Finally someone gets it. It is one thing to give all of the stats blasting that one out of four women experience domestic violence or that twenty people per minute, men and women, are victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. It is astoundingly painful to know an estimated three women die each day because a “loved one” could not control himself. The facts are. The truth is.

However, as the Purple Purse Campaign purports, domestic violence is also withholding money or limiting financial freedom. It is verbal assault. Domestic violence is hindering access to family and social circles. Intimacy partner violence involves humiliating the victim. It is harassing people via social media, texting, phone calls or emails. Domestic violence or intimate partner violence can be a physical, mental, financial, emotional, sexual or psychological act. In other words, domestic violence is bullying.

Bullying is often identified as “victimization between peers or even so called friends.” Nearly 1 in 3 students (27.8%) report being bullied by a peer during the school year (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). Students who experience bullying by their peers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment (Center for Disease Control, 2012). Male bullies are nearly four times as likely as non-bullies to grow up to physically or sexually abuse their female partners.

What intrigues me most is the nomenclature we use to describe this abuse. It is “intimate partner violence” or “domestic violence” or “victimization among peers.” The terms themselves are ironic and oxymoronic. One would think that a person who is “intimate with” another would in no way do harm to the recipient of such warmth or affection. As “domestic” refers to tame or that which has progressed from savagery, I am not so sure hitting, raping, slapping, punching, kicking, screaming at, bullying, pushing, or threatening in-person or online exudes any form of  “domesticity.” Yes, I realize there is another definition of “domestic” that is operative here, which brings me to another point.

So much attention recently has focused on sports figures and their public drama. I am not averring at all that we must turn a blind eye to punishment with switches or punches in elevators. However, I surmise acts of “domestic violence” proliferate our society. Businesses fiscally injure fast food workers and other fast food employees who must “fight” for an increase in the minimum wage just to make ends meet. Prison systems wound as they toy with human lives through barbaric attempts to concoct lethal injection cocktails. How many Trayvon Martins, Jordan Davises, Michael Browns, Renisha McBrides, Antonio Smiths, and countless, nameless men, women, boys and girls must perish before we “domesticate” the violent tendencies in this our United States of America?

While visiting Africa and the Near East with a delegation from Global Ministries, I could not help but wonder about other acts of  “domestic” violence. There are at minimum tens of thousands of Syrians living in Beirut. However, despite their educational background, they are not allowed to work as doctors, lawyers, teachers or other similar professions. In Amman I witnessed the 12 x 12 living quarters of a family of ten recently displaced due to the ISIS crisis in Iraq. With a dying matriarch in tow, they left their village to seek security and shelter. The dividing wall visibly epitomizes the politics of body, race and space between Palestine and Israel. Are these not violations of “intimate” relationships?

Character is rooted in behavior. Behavior emanates from actions. Actions find their source in a thought. Unless we think more highly of ourselves and humankind in general, we will not value or give a second thought about our deadly actions towards our sisters and brothers. We will participate in relational aggression. We will knowingly (and sometimes unknowingly) manipulate our peers and even closest brothers and sisters in order to move up the social chain, and gain power over others which, in turn, causes loneliness, distress and social anxiety – feelings far worse than physical pain.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, the writer Paul admonishes the believers to guard their thinking. They are to “fill their minds and meditate on things true, noble…the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8-9/The Message Version). The church in this city was full of drama, and the people were up in arms about many internal matters. Even the church leaders were at odds with one another.

People share their opinions and experiences about a growing concern — bullying.

This in-house bickering, Paul alludes, was connected to how they viewed their circumstances, God, and yes, each other. Their thinking predetermined how they treated each other. These followers of Jesus spent so much time in peevish confrontations that their public wrangling was becoming embarrassing. It was also hindering the service of the church and the believers’ spiritual growth. Their ill thinking led to discontent and anxiety. Relational aggression at work.

I am not so naïve as to believe that thinking about the ocean, a family gathering, the beauty of fall or a newborn baby will counteract the violence that seems to pervade our world’s DNA. However, I do hold that if the abuser could think of the (potential) victim as someone’s wife, husband or child, maybe there would not be the rush to harm, hurt or hit. We must learn to see each other beyond the moment. If we could just stop and think for a minute, then a lifetime of residual anguish or even death could be averted.

This is what intimacy requires. This is what it means to be domestic. Think about it. My little purple purse reminds me to think on these things.

Bible Study Questions

How do you define “domestic” violence?

What consumes your daily thoughts?

What aspects of Philippians 4, “think on these things,” do you find challenging? Encouraging?

What do you think makes a person scream at, hit, slap, bully, rape, sexually abuse or threaten another person?

For Further Reading

Office of Violence Against Women (OVW)

Domestic Violence Hotline – 800-799-SAFE (7233); 800-787-3224 (TTY)

Diyar Consortium

“What’s Love Got to Do With It” (DVD)

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ON Scripture – The Bible is made possible by generous grants from the Lilly Endowment

and the Henry Luce Foundation



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