“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence,” reads Genesis 6:11 (NIV). Violence destroys families, harming each member in different ways.
Today, domestic violence occurs in families at similar rates inside and outside of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In a study of more than 1,000 Adventists, Rene Drumm found that 33 percent of members reported experiencing physical violence, 44 percent experienced emotional abuse, and 23 percent experienced sexual abuse.
In my own study of more than 100 female Hispanic Adventists, I found that 42 percent of the women identified as survivors and 33 percent reported their abuser was an Adventist. While domestic violence includes threats as well as physical, spiritual, sexual, emotional, financial, and other types of abuse, all are traumatizing. Our Creator did not design us for violence — not to perpetuate it, experience it, or even witness it.
Damaging to Brains and Bodies
Only recently has science begun to realize how abuse damages our brains and bodies. We used to think that only physical wounds left their marks on our bodies, but even the words we speak change the structure of our brains and the ways it works. Therefore, when violence happens in our homes, all family members are hurt, and the family unit is devastated.
Survivors of domestic violence are more likely than others to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, similar to soldiers who go to war. Survivors also are more likely to experience anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, and are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke, use drugs, and overeat in an attempt to self-medicate. One study found that 90 percent of women with substance abuse problems had experienced physical or sexual violence. Additionally, survivors are also more likely to attempt suicide.
Children and Teens Specially Affected
Children who grow up in abusive homes suffer many consequences, depending on their age, gender, the types of abuse they experience, and how much abuse they witness. Young children may experience bed-wetting, anxiety, stuttering, or sleep problems.
Older kids may have problems learning in school and may experience a lot of headaches and stomach aches. Teenagers can display more behavioral problems, truancy, low self-esteem, and risky behaviors, including drug use, unprotected sex, and depression. In their lifetime, children who witness violence growing up are also at greater risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Violence Is Not of God
Not a lot of research has been done on how abuse harms the abuser, but we know abusers themselves get hurt in the process. Proverbs 3:31 says, “Do not envy a man of violence, and do not choose any of his ways” (ESV). Violence is not of God.
Some abusers experienced violence growing up, which has already harmed them. Genetic differences were recently found in some people who commit violent crimes. Science doesn’t know enough yet about all of the consequences of violence in aggressors, but we know that a God of love did not design us to hurt others or ourselves.
Back to God’s Original Plan
Abuse can be prevented, and those who have been hurt can get better. To raise awareness and teach church leaders and members how to prevent and intervene in cases of abuse, the North American Division recently hosted a free, live-streamed 2019 summit on abuse.
Together, we can work to end the violence and restore peace in our families and homes as God intended.
The original version of this story was posted on the Lake Union Heraldnews site.