The Accountability of the Abused: Accepting Leadership
Just as the abuser must accept responsibility for the abuse, so also must the abused. Although the abuser is the primary person responsible for stopping the abuse, especially if the abuser is the husband or the spiritual leader, nothing can make him accept that responsibility. His lack of spiritual leadership, however, does not mean the entire family must go astray with him. Unfortunately, the family often does go astray, but not for the reasons we might initially think. One of the reasons we might assume is cobattering. Indeed, research indicates that females who are assaultive to their partners are most often in a situation of self-defense, or a longstanding pattern exists in the relationship of male-initiated domestic violence (Barnett, Keyson, and Thelen, 1992). People tend to adopt the behaviors and styles of resolving conflict that surround them. Desensitization occurs after time, as the husband’s abuse becomes worse, and the wife may also begin to behave abusively. That is no excuse. If an abused wife becomes abusive, she is just as accountable for her abusiveness as is her husband. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39). (Also see Romans 12:17-21 for additional text on this spiritual principle.) God never approves of abuse, even when it is in response to another’s abuse. Self-defense in a life-threatening situation is not the issue here. We are talking about a revengeful heart. However, this type of reaction is probably the least common for the abused Christian wife.