Domestic Violence Statistics
• Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year1 to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.
• Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
• Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.
• Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996.
• Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.
• In the year 2001, more than half a million American women (588,490 women) were victims of nonfatal violence committed by an intimate partner.
• Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence (588,490 total) and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims (103,220 total).
• While women are less likely than men to be victims of violent crimes overall, women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.
• In 2001, intimate partner violence made up 20 percent of violent crime against women. The same year, intimate partners committed three percent of all violent crime against men.
• As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.
• Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate.
• Male violence against women does much more damage than female violence against men; women are much more likely to be injured than men.
• The most rapid growth in domestic relations caseloads is occurring in domestic violence filings. Between 1993 and 1995, 18 of 32 states with three year filing figures reported an increase of 20 percent or more.
• Women are seven to 14 times more likely than men to report suffering severe physical assaults from an intimate partner.
Domestic Violence within the Church: The Ugly Truth
A woman I'll call "Marleen" went to her pastor for help. "My husband is abusing me," she told him. "Last week he knocked me down and kicked me. He broke one of my ribs."
Marleen's pastor was sympathetic. He prayed with Marleen—and then he sent her home. "Try to be more submissive," he advised. "After all, your husband is your spiritual head."
Two weeks later, Marleen was dead—killed by an abusive husband. Her church could not believe it. Marleen's husband was a Sunday school teacher and a deacon. How could he have done such a thing?
Tragically, studies reveal that spousal abuse is just as common within the evangelical churches as anywhere else. This means that about 25 percent of Christian homes witness abuse of some kind.
These numbers may shock you—and they certainly shocked me—so you may be wondering if the studies were done by secular researchers hostile to the church. I can assure you, sadly, they were not.
Denise George, a gifted writer and the wife of theologian Timothy George, has published a new book called What Women Wish Pastors Knew. "Spouse abuse shocks us," George writes. "We just cannot believe that a church deacon or member goes home after worship . . . and beats his wife." Tragically, however, George notes, some of these men justify their violence "by citing biblical passages."
Well, obviously they're misinterpreting Scripture. In Ephesians 5:22, husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church; beating wives black-and-blue hardly constitutes Christian love. First Peter tells husbands to live with their wives considerately. And the Bible makes it clear that the church has no business closing its eyes to violent men. In 1 Timothy 3:3, the church is told that when it comes to choosing leaders, they must find men who are "not violent but gentle," sober, and temperate.
The amount of domestic abuse in Christian homes is horrifying, and the church ought to be doing something about it—not leaving the problem to secular agencies. But this is one mission field where the church is largely missing in action. And sometimes pastors, albeit with good intentions, do more harm than good.
George sites a survey in which nearly 6,000 pastors were asked how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them the same way Marleen's pastor did: to continue to "submit" to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50 percent said women should be willing to "tolerate some level of violence" because it is better than divorce.
Advice like this, George warns, often puts women "in grave danger"—and in some cases, can be a death warrant.
Pastors need to acknowledge that domestic abuse in the church is a problem, and learn how to counsel women wisely.
Stay tuned for more on this subject—one the church has not said enough about.Obviously, Christians must uphold the sanctity of marriage. But we should never ignore the dangers of violent spouses—men who use the Bible to justify abusing, and even killing, their wives.
Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799 SAFE (7223)