Domestic Violence and Australia

Yesterday in Australia was White Ribbon Day, a day for standing up against domestic violence. My university held a symposium, where various speakers talked about the true impacts of domestic violence. This is my reflection on what i heard. 

Domestic violence is a global problem. It is recognized as a global health concern and it is estimated that it impacts 36% of women worldwide, and is the 10th leading cause of death for women.

But my heart breaks particularly for how this abomination affects my home country, beautiful sunny Australia. 2 women a week have died in Australia at the hands of their current or former partner in 2015. 1 in 4 Australian women have experienced domestic violence. Yet still so much of it is not reported, and it’s impossible to know the true figures.

Domestic violence is everyone’s business. It is not a new problem for our country. Recently though, there has been a shift in the public’s perception. More people are speaking up about it. More people are recognizing that we cannot allow this to continue. 96% of Australians say they are against domestic violence. But why then, does it still continue?

White Ribbon Day focuses on violence against women and children by men, so this is the focus of this post. This is not to ignore male victims, or to say that women are never violent or abusive – but statistically, we must see that the overwhelming, heartbreaking majority of domestic violence is committed by men, against women. So we must address the cause, for ignoring it only helps those who commit this violence – we must address gender inequality. We must stop blaming women.

Domestic violence affects all kinds of people from all kinds of walks of life. It does not discriminate based on faith, race, age, gender or sexuality. Anyone can be a victim. We need to stop asking why women stay when we have seen women are often murdered when they try to leave. Instead we need to ask why this is happening. Then we need to take action. Our priority in it all should be that women and children are safe.

Over the course of the symposium, I heard from experts who work in many fields where they encounter victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

I heard from a midwife who talked about how women often try to cope through alcohol and drugs, and that often domestic violence begins or escalates during pregnancy – and how midwifes are in a unique position to support those women.

I heard from a Magistrate and a Family Law expert who outlined the problems in the Family Law Courts, and how the 2006 Family Law Act in Australia that prioritizes the nuclear family and tries to, when possible, allow shared custody of children. Unfortunately, as separation often does not halt the abuse, shared custody can sometimes continue to expose the children and women to violence. I heard how this Family Law expert was working to include the wider support network – grandparents, aunts and uncles – into caring for children, to find the best and safest solution for each individual case.

I also heard how when the no fault divorce act came through, reports of domestic violence dropped, because when women did not have to declare their reason for leaving, they often choose to not report. I was struck how all our best efforts often have unintended consequences.

I heard from an economics professor who had been researching in this area for a long time – and his staggering estimation that domestic violence costs Australia 21.7 billion – and that was only taking into account the violence that is reported. Health costs, funding for shelters, court costs, the hours and hours given by volunteers – even without a heart, you can see this issue is draining our country.

I heard from an academic whose research was in child protection, speak about focusing on prevention. His research into how toxic masculinity teaches boys violence instead of emotional expression from an early age showed clear links between the stereotypical gender roles and this kind of violence.

As I listened to them all, I was very thankful that there are people doing something. When I feel helpless that I cannot do anything, I will try and remember that there are people who are doing something. I will remember that there are people who see the problem and will not be silent. I will remember that there is good happening, slowly, step by step.

Half the Church Part 1 – Is God’s Vision Big Enough for Everyone?

I have been reading ‘Half The Church’ by Carolyn Custis James and loving it. I was planning to write down my thoughts in response when I was done but I am two chapters in and already am overflowing with words – so I am going to do a series of responses instead. These posts may be longer than usual. 

The book echoes one of the big questions I have had – Is God’s vision and plan for his daughters big enough to include every women’s story from the beginning to the final chapter? Is there room for me and my experiences and the ways they are different and the same as the experiences of other women globally? I have realized I need answers that hold up under the weight of every women’s reality, and won’t collapse when faced with the real experiences of real women. For I am overflowing with questions.

I need these answers. The world needs these answers and the church desperately needs these answers – for when half the church holds back, whether by our choice or by the choices of others – everyone loses.

The search for answers in this book is very heavily influenced by the book Half the Sky – which looks globally at the suffering of women and how it holds humanity back. Christians are good in a crisis – floods and fires, we are there in compassionate truckloads. But we often have missed the chronic, systemic tragedies that steal far more lives one by one.

The truth is, worldwide, equality still means getting access to things we take for granted here – education, healthcare, legal help and autonomy. We cannot talk about God’s message for women and apply it only to our isolated western world. To do so is culturally blind. God’s message for women, if it is to be true, must be universal – for all women’s lives, regardless of place or circumstance. God’s message is that no life is every beyond the reach of his restorative powers, his everlasting grace.

When new ideas surface, cultural shifts occur or injustice comes to light, Christians tend to retreat to the bunker. But this is not the answer to anything. We must rise to challenge, and test the Bible’s message and see if it holds up under the worst that the 21st Century has to give.

Women are the world’s greatest unused resource. We are not a problem, but our own solution – for when women are educated and empowered, they bring good to communities and economies. The world, that is temporary and fading, is in dire need of women. The church, which is everlasting, is in even more need. Half the church’s gifts are unused. Men are shouldering burdens meant to be shared and the church is unable to fulfill the mission given to us all to complete. We are costing the lives of people needing Jesus when we encourage women to hold back.

The good news is that it is not too late. We can display to the world the radical greatness of Jesus and his gospel, and the difference he makes in relationships between the genders as we serve him together.

For God has named us all as his image bearers. He gave us all the same responsibilities when he entrusted us with creation. When we read the early chapters of Genesis we should see God setting the stage for the story about to play out, casting all humanity in leading roles and showing us his plan for the world. Though we live in a broken ruin of that world God created, his vision for us is still the same. Jesus came to connect us back to God and bring us back into relationship with him.

God has made a relationship with himself the center of his purpose for humanity and for the world. He is our north star, our reference point. We are to study him to become like him, to see the world through his eyes, love what he loves and grieves what he grieves.

Jesus came to put us back on mission as God’s representatives in this world.

A world in need of Jesus

When I look at the world, it brings me to my knees. Sometimes in prayer. More often then not, just in wordless despair.

Not just Paris. Not just Beirut and Baghdad, though they are sources of particular heartbreak right now. But all of it. The whole sad twisted lot of it.

Sexism. Racism. Hate and fear and poverty while the rich get richer.

Slavery alive and flourishing – often the need for it created by the same people who donate to charities for third world countries but turn around and spend their money in a way that only reflects a need for more and now which can only be supplied by the suffering of others.

Humans hating humans, humans killing humans, humans everywhere infecting the world with their poison.

And I am no better.

Most days, it feels like the darkness is winning. But these are the days I need to remember that Jesus has already won.

It doesn’t feel like it. Not today certainly. But I have to say it again and again like a refrain: Jesus has won. He is the light. He has won. I will shout it into the darkness.

I must remember, when I see what humans do, that they are not the enemy. Jesus did not come to defeat humanity, but to rescue it.

Humans; Christian, Muslim, black, white, American, French, Arabic, even Australian – we are the hostages. We are hostages of the darkness.

Thank goodness Jesus stormed into this world and liberated us, and has dragged us back into the light.

Does it make any sense to blame the refugees who were also fleeing this darkness, when it struck and attack their homelands, for running? Doesn’t the need for safety for those victims increase, not decrease, with these attacks?

If we did nothing when the darkness hurt those who were far away, are we really surprised it has spread closer to us?

When I look at the world, I am trying to see one in need of Jesus. I am just a hostage that has been rescued. Why would I dare place blame on the actions of those still trapped in darkness? Why would I not try and show them the liberator, the rescuer, who rescued me?

Unironic Enthusiasm (or why I’m not pretending to be too cool anymore)

What’s so bad about being enthusiastic anyway?

tumblr_ma1rug9FtR1qjhzvpo3_1280John Green, who makes videos on the internet and writes young adult fiction, said something once about how being a nerd just means you are excited about things.

I love being excited about things. I love counting down the days to the Taylor Swift concert, I love live-tweeting Doctor Who episodes, I love messaging my friends in all caps when I see something I know they will be just as excited as I am about.

So why is it so – normal – to make fun of people for being excited?

Did you cringe when I said I like Taylor Swift? What if I said it was One Direction? I can’t count the number of times I have seen adults on breakfast shows mocking the fans of the latest something – especially when the fans are mostly teenage girls.

So we shy away from liking anything too much. Or if we do, we don’t talk about it or share it. We are far too cool to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into liking something.

This has all been said before, I am sure. I hardly came to these conclusions on my own. Many people have observed that brands often become inexplicably a joke when the teenage girls show up.

And yet – these girls.

They love so devotedly. They turn up so readily. They cheer unashamedly.

What would it look like if we loved Jesus like this?

No holding back. Not afraid of the judgement or the laughter of those who think they are better and wiser. Not being too cool for anything, not even too cool for Jesus.

So I have decided to live my life with unironic enthusiasm.

I will be excited.

I will count the days to Christmas, I will hashtag the latest launch, I will throw the finale party and I will be excited.

I will let this excitement and joy into every corner of my life, but most of all into how I follow Jesus.

Because if there is anything in this world to be excited about, it is him. If there is anything that brings me joy and life and gladness, it is the good news of him.