Domestic Violence: What Can Be Done?

Service to the address given by Virginia Geddes, July 22nd, 2012, Melbourne Unitarian Church

Opening Words

Findings from the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey show that among the female victims of physical assault, 31 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Among male victims, 4.4 percent were assaulted by a current or previous partner. Thirty per cent of people who had experienced violence by a current partner since the age of 15 were male, and seventy per cent were female.


From a service by Rev, Scott McNeill, Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, Sunday, January 25, 2009,

There is no vaccination, no criteria that automatically saves a woman from domestic violence or sexual assault. Being rich doesn’t shield you; being educated doesn’t stop it; being a person of faith doesn’t prevent it. This evil crosses into homes of the waitress in Alabama just as much as it does the lawyer in Maryland or the pastor in Virginia. Too often we as a society can say oh let’s help someone else, it must be someone else’s problem but I know without a shadow of doubt that it is our problem. Every single one of us has some connection to this.

Along with the personal connections that we each share to this haunting issue, comes a religious connection. As people of faith we are charged with reflecting the holy to everyone else, regardless of what we see as holy. We are also charged, as liberal religionists, to craft peace in a violent world through new revelations and to dismantle the oppression of old revelations. Susan Brooks Thisthewaith, a minister and President of a Chicago theological school, tells of a woman who had complained to her husband of his abuse and the scars she bore. He responded that her bones were his bones, as it said in the Bible – relating back to the story of Adam and Eve (“Every Two Minutes” 311). Other texts, such as 1 Peter 2:19-21 tell the faithful that they should suffer as Jesus suffered for them. As my colleague, Rev. Michael Tino writes, “If a woman is taught to believe that the pain inflicted by her abusive [partner] is a test of her faith and her willingness to keep her family together no matter what the personal cost, there is a problem with what she is being taught—not with her (Tino “Saving Paradise).”

It’s important to find a way to both challenge the theologies that oppress women and others and to find theological language and imagery that supports us and lifts us up out of our days of despair. While misogyny arising out of the Bible is wrong, it’s possible to create an interpretation that is fair and supportive of all people. We need to be stark advocates for a theology and a text that uplifts women, that uplifts good relationships instead of privileging suffering and plight.

Closing Words

A proverb from the Ashanti people of Ghana "The ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people."