Erica Hamence opens our series of 16 days of prayer against Domestic & Family Violence - Foundations for Christian Action by reminding us that we pray because our God has promised to transform the world.
Prevention is Better than Cure
What might Annabel Crabb, social research and the Song of Songs have to tell us about domestic and family violence?
'Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
therefore the maidens love you.
Draw me after you, let us make haste.
The king has brought me into his chambers.
We will exult and rejoice in you;
we will extol your love more than wine;
rightly do they love you.'
- Song of Songs 1:1–4
Clichés are clichés for a reason, right?
The poet in me says avoid clichés like the… well you get the picture. But the researcher in me loves this saying. Because it’s true. Preventing Domestic and Family Violence is so important to me that I changed my PhD topic so I could research into the primary prevention of DFV. I recently got the opportunity to preach on my research topic (living the dream!) and I included a kicker of a quote from Annabel Crabb (who I love, and want to be when I grow up):
“A woman gets killed by her male partner every single week, and somehow that doesn't qualify as a tools-down national crisis even though if a man got killed by a shark every week, we'd probably arrange to have the ocean drained.”
Normally I would focus in on the “having the ocean drained” part because it’s absurd and, I don’t know about you but sometimes, in my line of work/research, I need that little bit of levity. But these days, I’m more focused on the “tools-down national crisis” part. I’ve been helping to repair my water damaged house and, for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing what it’s like to know when to literally put tools down and face something that’s difficult but important. Renovating a house is HARD work but it’s also rewarding. It would have been much easier for me to keep working on my house than ‘tools-down’ and write about DFV prevention. It can be hard for us to know when to ‘tools-down’ from the hard but rewarding stuff of our daily lives – working, studying, family and just generally adulting – and face something that’s difficult but so important.
Can I encourage you, in these 16 days of activism, and into the future, to spend some time ‘tools-down’ and join me – join us – in the hard but important work of preventing DFV?
To prevent violence, we need to know what drives it. The best social research we have tells us that the biggest driver and indicator of violence against women is gender inequality. So, let’s spend some time thinking about the following:
What would it look like for women to be truly equal?
What do relationships that are characterized by equality and respect look like?
What would it look like to talk to and in our churches about gender equality, respectful relationships and preventing DFV?
Would you continue in partnering with us to do the hard but necessary work of preventing DFV?
‘You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.’ – Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
God we thank you that you give us the power to learn, grow and change. Thank you for what we have learned over these last 16 days. We thank you that you have heard every one of our prayers, that they are precious to you. We thank you that you pay attention to every tear we have cried because of our own suffering or that of others. We thank you that you are able to bring about change in us and the world. We pray for those we know or suspect are suffering or at risk of family and domestic violence. What would you have us do to care for them? Please show us, and help us to help them. Amen.
When I first started thinking through some of the questions above, I wondered what it would be like to have a Biblical example of a relationship that is characterized by equality and respect. And then it dawned on me. Song of Songs. Even just the first four verses model for us where any sexual encounter should begin: consent. The very opening line – in fact the very first word! – of Song of Songs is the woman of the Song giving consent (she does this in a Hebrew tense used for giving permission). This first poem in Song of Songs then goes on to show us a healthy, loving relationship defined by equality, mutuality, and respect. When we preach, teach and discuss Song of Songs in our churches, we have an opportunity to talk about gender equality, respectful relationships and preventing DFV.
If you’d like to know more about the work of primary prevention, head over to Our Watch and take a look a their resources.
If you’d like to know more about Song of Songs as a model for primary prevention, you can read more here.