Tag Archives: domestic violence

The Power Behind Domestic and Political Dictatorships


The quote by Anjan Sundaram in Stringer continues to rattle in my head. I mentioned him here when I spoke about the power of small-time tyranny–that it lasts only when those close to the dictator look the other way.

Here’s the quote as he talks about being the victim of the dictator’s myth:

It startles me how steadfastly I believed, growing up, that our dictator was just, good and wise. I was never told anything to the contrary. … the indoctrination that holds up the dictator as a savior, a sage, as all-powerful. Until recently this myth usually invoked God, a divine right to power. These days dictators have less need for mysticism: they us the tools of liberty–elections, business, schools, art, the media. The successful dictator creates at once a terror of his presence and a fear of his loss. (p. 61-2)

Terror of presence, fear of absence. Sounds similar to the experience of victims of domestic abuse. Afraid of being hit, afraid of being abandoned. In order to have someone excuse violent and abusive behavior of a dictator, you have to believe that you need them, that what they do is necessary or acceptable in light of a worse outcome. While Sundaram may be right that dictators speak less of divine right, I suspect many religious abusive husbands use a variant on divine right to excuse lording it over their wives. And abusive wives can claim that their husband’s (supposed) failure to lead gives rights to engage in verbal abuse.

What is the power behind a dictator? Myth. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. 

True power does not grasp its right but willingly gives up power for the sake of others.  Philippians 2 gives us this clear picture.

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Advice to an abused wife? Guest post over at biblical.edu


For those interested in a new resource on dealing with abusive relationships, check out this post about Leslie Vernick’s new book on emotionally destructive marriages. I highly recommend it. Leslie gets the insanity of emotional abuse and is able to point out a good and godly response.

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Tuza 2.0: Day Six and Seven


[June 28-29, 2013, Kibuye to Kigali, Rwanda]

Since my little fire mishap in the middle of the night, this conference has gone ever so smoothly. Our only difficulty has been figuring out what to cut since our talks now take twice the time due to translation time. The cuts have been to case studies in order to protect the cherished small group times. I opened our morning session with a devotional on “the cup of sweet water” and our need to address the bitter water that flows out of us. In a conference like this where we talk about domestic violence and sexual abuse, it is easy to think about evil “out there” in its most grotesque images. However, we all have the roots of this evil even if it only show up as pride and arrogance. I ended our devotional reminding us of the grace and hope given us in 1 John 1:9.

Our morning session consisted of Dr. Beverly Ingelse giving a talk about caring and counseling children who have suffered abuse. After a break and a group picture, we returned to our small groups to respond to some of Bev’s questions and to discuss cases. In my group we went fairly off topic to hear how two of our group members survived the genocide and how they are now dealing with children who did not go through the genocide but have symptoms of traumatic reactions (depression over lost Aunts and Uncles, dissociation during memorial periods, chronic fear). Just in these two stories, they counted 115 murdered extended family members! It boggles the mind of those of us who have only read about such experiences.

Just before lunch I gave a brief talk about how to facilitate storytelling in ways that does not further traumatize the teller. We looked at common behaviors of counselors that support recovery and common behaviors that may hinder recovery. Look for those in an upcoming post!

We concluded our conference a few hours earlier than expected so that attendees could return home to manage household duties prior to Saturday’s Umuganda, or monthly required civil service. We concluded with a short “What’s next?” session led by Baraka. A couple of key ideas were proposed and repeated:

  • One day set aside for hearing and responding to case studies
  • Seminars about integrity for pastors and lawyers (apparently, some very public abuse cases (by pastors) have rocked the counseling community in recent months
  • Network building: the attendees discussed formal or informal counselor network (to promote learning, peer supervision, and support. They requested technical assistance from AACC.

After our last lunch overlooking beautiful Lake Kivu, we boarded a bus and returned to Kigali. I sat next to Worship and her mother (a most precious toddler who batted her eyes at me and played peekaboo with me for 3 hours). Arriving in Kigali at dusk, we ended our day with a meal and good conversations.

Day Seven (the last)

The day started quiet and lazy with a savoring of my favorite breakfast: tropical fruit salad, coffee, and a croissant. It is good that it started this way because last night, neighbors of the retreat house decided that midnight to 5 am would be a good time to remove a sheet metal roof. The workers worked diligently and loudly, singing and laughing right outside my window. Around 5 I fell asleep for about 2 hours. These would be the only 2 hours for the next 40 or so.

As this was our last day in Rwanda, some wanted to get a bit of shopping done. I wanted to be sure to get some Rwanda tea and coffee. We hung around until about noon, when the required civil service was completed. Then, we struck out for good places to buy a few items. Though this is my third trip to Rwanda, it is my first to a shopping district. Some of our team looked for dresses, others for artistic work. I bought a few things but mostly enjoyed the people watching (and being people watched). Back at our Solace Ministries, we got our bags ready and watched a Rwandan wedding get underway. We were told after 3 hours that the bride had yet to make an appearance and that this is quite common–a good reminder of the differences in time culture!

By 9 pm we were boarding our plane to return home. I found it interesting that much of this flight (including the stop in Uganda) is filled with young (mostly female) adults looking to be college age. Some we spoke with had just spent 6 weeks with a professor and seeing various NGOs at work.

This has been a short but fulfilling trip. I look forward to returning in 1 year with our first round of Global Trauma Recovery students.

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Tuza 2.0: Day Four


[June 26, 2013]

The conference has begun. We have 30 high level caregivers here, 17 of whom attended Tuza 1.0. One of the things we expect is that all of the planning as to how long things will take does not ensure we will be able to stay on schedule. While we expect it, it requires a lot more cultural sensitivity and flexibility than us Westerners usually like to display. When I go to a conference, I don’t want to “waste” time playing games and getting to know my neighbors. Just fill my head up with knowledge, thank you very much. But that is not the way most of the world lives. So, our conference began, appropriately so, getting to know each other. Truth be told, this kind of beginning is necessary if we are going to trust each other!

Our first session included a short review of basic helping skills followed by a roleplay with Carol King. After a large group discussion, we broke attendees up into groups of 4 to form quads (counselor, counselee, and 2 observers). Many attendees remarked at how helpful the quads were for practicing skills. It seems that most have not had this experience before.

After coffee break (coffee plus a bowl containing a little donut with peppers and carrots inside and little fried (whole) fish!), one of our attendees presented a case for large group discussion. The case was of a teen who had experienced sex trafficking and was severely wounded in an attempt to kill her.

Our afternoon session featured a presentation by Dr. Barbara Shaffer on the topic of domestic violence. She spoke about the common cycle of domestic violence (tension building–>violence–>calm), the basis for protection from the scriptures, and gave basic goals when meeting with a person who is domestically abused.

During our large group discussion, we heard from several men and women that men are increasingly abused in Rwanda society. There was some discussion about how much this is an issue. It appears that since the genocide, women have had greater need to be independent and so traditional relationships between men and women are disrupted. Women, these individuals claimed, are more likely to be argumentative than in past eras. Also, we learned that in a separation, children under 7 may be forced to go with the father (or his family) since children belong to the father and not the mother. Not all attendees agreed with this view. We ended the day with small group discussions about how to tell when a person is experiencing domestic violence and how to engage that person in some basic information gathering and invitation to talk further.

One of the major changes we have in our schedule is the fact that we decided it was important to translate in real-time. We had planned that English proficiency would be high enough to do the training in English. However, it appears that substantial concepts are being missed. Even though this doubles the time it takes to do a talk and training, we  believe this is best for the attendees. We give them written text of the talk in English and at the same time give it orally in English and Kinyarwandan.

Some of us ended our work day with a fun swim in Lake Kivu. The water was a perfect temperature and clear many feet down. We swam for about 40 minutes then got ready for dinner. The swim was refreshing after a long day of concentrating and listening. Listening across accents and experiences can really wear you out.

A Funny Anecdote:

Charging phones and readers can be quite a challenge in Africa. You can have a converter and the right plug and find out that your device will not charge. For some reason, I could not charge my phone or nook while in Kigali. However, I was grateful to find that I could charge my devices in my room here at Bethany Centre. Well, last night I awoke at midnight to flames shooting out of my converter right at my head and mosquito net. I yelled, “FIRE” and quickly yanked the blackened plastic out of the wall while sparks continued to fall on flammable material. Thankfully, nothing caught on fire. I opened the patio door and threw the converter outside. My room stunk of that awful burnt plastic smell. In my stupor I wondered if I should call the front desk and ask them to make sure there wasn’t any ongoing problems with the outlet. As I stood thinking about it, I heard/saw outside flourescent lights grow tremendously brighter and then explode, first one, then another, then another. Deciding that I now needed to call the front desk, I turned the light on so I could dial the phone. The overhead light also exploded and sparks fell to the bed/net below. Again, I pounced wanting to make sure nothing caught fire. It did not. I used my phone light to dial the front desk. Minutes later, a sleepy voiced answered. I requested someone come soon to check on me and to ensure something wasn’t terribly wrong. No one came. The next morning I related my story and learned that several others had no power and their lights blew as well. Later we learned that some wires crossed and caused the power surge. It ended well and we had no further electrical problems the rest of the conference.

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System justification: motivated avoidance of vulnerability


System justification: the tendency to defend an organization or institution in the face of negative public opinion or distressing facts.

Have you ever noticed that when some person, institution, value, or position you love and cherish is being attacked, you come to its defense? Think back to your childhood. You may have mistreated a sibling but if someone else was a bully, you did not stand idly by. You may have criticisms of your church or country, but if an outsider attacks it, you feel a level of outrage. When you finally do come to see the criticisms of outsiders as valid, it is also common for us to leave our once cherished system and become an enemy. Consider how former catholics converting to evangelical christianity may often be more critical of their former church than those who never followed the tradition.

This is a common, understandable, but potentially unhelpful response. It seems that it is difficult to stay inside a system and yet be vocal about its value AND weaknesses. Either we stay and defend or leave and attack.

Some Evidence

Steven Shepherd and Aaron Kay say,

Being actively critical of something one is dependent on is thought to be psychologically uncomfortable, and therefore avoided in favor of increased perceptions of legitimacy, trust, and desirability. System justification theory posits that people are motivated to justify and legitimize the status quo and the system in which one lives. (Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 102(2), 2012, 264-280)

They go on to say that feeling dependent on a system leads to increased trust in that system which leads to active avoidance of evidence critical of that system. In other words, we like to be comfortable and loss of an important system increases our sense of vulnerability.

This “motivated avoidance” of information that might undermine our sense of safety shows up in domestic violence  research. In the most recent journal of  Psychological Trauma (5(3), 2013, 241-250), Ryan Matlow and Anne DePrince point out the differences between women who experience chronic violence at the hands of one partner versus domestic violence from the hands of multiple partners. Those who stay with a violent partner appear to use active avoidance strategies to ignore the violence but focus only on the good qualities. The assumption is that the attachment bond is more important to protect than to admit that their partner is abusive.

One more piece of anecdotal evidence: many spouses of adulterous partners either leave immediately or stay and defend against the evil other person who “attacked” the family. It is rare (but I have seen it) to stay with someone who you think is the main or sole cause of adultery.

We stay and defend instead of stay and reform. Or, we leave and attack. Staying and criticizing for reform is difficult and potentially dangerous.

Is there another way?

Imagine that one of the authors of the newly revised DSM 5 were to acknowledge that several of the significant changes were based merely on political or philosophical forces and not at all on empirical data. Imagine that a Republican or Democrat in Congress would agree that their party cared more about winning than finding true compromises. Imagine that a member of the PCA (my denomination) admitted that electing but not ordaining deaconesses for service in the church was hiding behind semantics.

What enables us to have the courage to stay and critique our favorite systems (assuming that there is something worth saving!)? I suspect the following must be present:

  • A love for truth above winning arguments (which will influence how we criticize others!)
  • A love for both those outside the system and those inside who need to change
  • Honest admission of previous or current support of problem systems
  • Courage in the face of criticism from others who dislike our truth-telling
  • Vision for reform (it is too easy to destroy, much harder to construct)
  • A willingness to give up what provides comfort, choosing future honor over insider status
  • Acceptance that one outcome may be your being kicked out of your beloved system

Of course, the power to avoid avoidance of vulnerability comes not from intellectual prowess but from no other place than the Holy Spirit. Why else would we trade current comfort now?

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Trafficking and Abuse Conference, Day 2


Continuing my reflections on our conference last week…

On Friday, Bethany Hoang of IJM and Diane Langberg of her own practice gave their 2nd plenary talks. Bethany explored some of IJM’s work in Cambodia and how a particular town/village (Svay Pak) has been transformed by the work of rescuing girls and shutting down brothels. One particular brothel was purchased by a church in the US and turned into a center for healing.

Diane explored the problem of domestic trafficking. We’d like to believe that most prostitutes get into the business on their own accord. But, Diane told us that 90% of prostitutes got their start as minors and with the “encouragement” of an adult. In other words, they were pimped…trafficked. She described the usual way this happens with vulnerable adolescent girls. The pimp starts off offering all sorts of gifts and love. These girls often come from homes with domestic violence, addiction, and abandonment. The “love” of the pimp is attractive. Later he manipulates her into prostitution after he has emotional control. We often think of this as a problem with internationals being trafficked into the country but all too often these girls are US citizens.

Diane left us with this quote which convicted us of turning a blind eye. In telling us that the only way we could not see the problem is to not look,

Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees another in need and closes his/her heart against them, how does the love of God abide in him?

In the afternoon, two other individuals gave presentations. Robert Morrison, founder of FREE (www.FREEtheenslaved.net), a grassroots group in Reading working to eliminate trafficking told listeners how they could be effective even without money, time, or experience. His presentation gave the following facts

  • While awareness of trafficking is increasing, prosecutions have not risen. Only 1% of trafficking cases are solved.
  • Trafficking is the fasting growing criminal activity in the world because, unlike guns and drugs, human victims are reusable
  • 4 forces fuel trafficking: huge profits with little fear of being caught (32B annual profits), an abundance of vulnerable people (1/3 of runaways are contacted by traffickers), a growing demand (porn and on-line ads), and a disconnected society (sees porn as “free speech” and resignation to the problem).
  • Average citizens can do something about 2 forces: speak up about demand and make a connection between porn and trafficking
  • Best practices in fighting this is building awareness, finding “networkers” and others who who people, find “trainers” who can educate on the problem. There are lots of resources out there to train law enforcement and others to understand the true problem
  • Also, start with direct influence. Ask stores that carry papers/mags that advertise sensual massages to stop their practice. In the Reading area, they were able to shut down 10 of these parlors which often have trafficked women in them

Bob handed out a free activism kit. Included was a DVD and brochures. The DVD is 12 minutes long and educates audiences to the key facts re: trafficking. These materials are produced by the US government and are free. You can get your own at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/campaign_kits/index.html. Bob reminded us that 1/3 of victims are rescued by someone who was suspicious and took action to get help.

In my next post I’ll comment on Assistant DA Pearl Kim’s presentation. She provided us an intimate look into the world of trafficking and abuse from a prosecution perspective.

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Vernick on Domestic Violence.


Leslie Vernick wrote a nice summary posting on domestic violence at http://www.christianpsych.org. Read her comments here. She reminds us the truth about domestic violence and how Christians ought to respond to it.

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