Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse
Earlier today, I participated in a discussion at SharperIron.org. The discussion is about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini and domestic violence. A commenter, dmyers, is having trouble with Naghmeh’s earlier statements, challenging her claims of abuse, etc.
I have an assignment due in one hour, so I will have to wait to respond to dmyers tomorrow, but I thought I’d let you all in on some of the discussion because I believe dymers represents many others in church leadership who truly do not get domestic violence.
I’ve posted a few comments below so you can get the gist of the conversation. I am very concerned that dmyers does not understand abuse:
My ears were itching. Bert, thank you for linking to my blog. I don’t expect even my regular readers to agree with me. I do enjoy healthy dialog.
Mark, what claims are you rejecting? I spent a considerable amount of time researching and formed my opinions based on the many primary source documents that were readily available online (and linked to them).
Greg is right. When there is abuse, there is no marriage. We hear people talking about reconciliation, but that is the wrong focus. Usually the abuser is in denial that he has a problem and has no desire whatsoever to get help. I have asked a handful of pastors who deal with domestic violence as a primary part of their ministry and 100% of them said they have never seen an abuser come to full repentance. Knowing this, the wife must get away and protect herself and their children.
I have a lot of respect fo Naghmeh NOT going to Graham’s compound for “counseling.” Abuse is not a marital issue. The abuser is the issue, not the victim. Anyone who understands abuse dynamics would NEVER counsel a husband/wife together in which there is abuse. For Graham to recommend they seek counseling and work on their relationship shows that he has no clue how abuse situations should be handled. He could have been putting her in harm’s way. Also, legally, if she were to take the children out of state it could have affected custody arrangements. She was right in remaining at home and seeking legal protection.
dmyers, are you a pastor? What would you do if a wife came to you and told you she was being abused? How would you respond to that? I’m troubled that it seems your default mode seems to be to not believe Naghmeh.
GregH and Julei Anne: It appears that you’ve allowed the zeitgeist to take precedence over scripture. Yes, sometimes real domestic abuse exists, including in some Christian marriages. And in those situations, I have no sympathy for the unrepentant abuser. Are you two objective enough, however, to acknowledge the legitimate studies showing that domestic violence against husbands occurs at least as frequently as the other way around? Are you objective enough to grant that a wife’s verbal abuse of her husband, including screaming, hurling insults, and so forth — particularly in front of the children — is just as wrong as the same behavior from the husband? Do you acknowledge that divorce courts frequently see false allegations of abuse as a child custody ploy? Are you interested in truth enough to assess the Abedinis’ situation on its own, rather than colored and likely distorted by your previous bad experience with a particular church or society’s and law enforcement’s entrenched assumption that domestic violence/abuse goes only one way? Your previous comments indicate that you’re not, which calls into question the reliability of your arguments and your criticisms.
The scriptural passages on marriage, the spouses’ joint and separate responsibilities in marriage, separation, and divorce are clear. Likewise, the scriptural passages on dispute resolution (in Matt. 18 and 1 Cor. 6) are also clear. Nothing in any of those passages makes an allegation of abuse an exception to the rules. Nothing in any of those passages supports the radical idea that “there is no marriage” where there has been (or allegedly has been) abuse. I note that neither of you made any effort to support your position from scripture. I think there’s an obvious reason for that. The scripture is also clear that men and women both are depraved and perfectly capable of manipulation, deceit, and seriously bad behavior in and out of marriage. So it is unbiblical to buy into the current culture’s message that a woman’s allegation of abuse should always and automatically be believed and her husband’s denial of her allegation should always and automatically be disbelieved.
Julie Anne, I am not a pastor (you can breathe a sigh of relief). But I have been a deacon attempting to deal with some very troubled marriages, I have dealt with my own very troubled marriage, and I am a trial attorney with 30+ years of experience sorting through competing versions of the same event to attempt to arrive at what really happened. I also take the Bible seriously on marriage, divorce, and dispute resolution. If you were to take a more objective look at Naghmeh’s historical behavior and public statements, you would realize that there are major inconsistencies there. If you were at all interested in an unbiased assessment of what we know so far, you wouldn’t dismiss Saeed’s (and others’) denials, nor his imprisonment and testimony through his imprisonment. You would also acknowledge Mark Smith’s point above that even the one-sided record of the 2007 incident reflects a minor case, especially if it was not repeated (and we have no indication from anyone that it ever was). You would also acknowledge that Naghmeh’s admitted role in that incident was itself abusive. If your response is that there is no such thing as a minor case, then you demonstrate that it’s not possible to have a rational discussion with you on this topic.
Also, both of you have missed my primary point: there is no excuse for how Naghmeh has behaved in this matter, regardless of the truth of her vague accusations and especially if she is in any way overstating (or lying about) her grievances. She has clearly relied on the expectation that people like you would believe her entirely and unhesitatingly and that you would rush to judgment and excommunication of Saeed without ever having heard anything from him in defense. You have even approved of her unscriptural divorce filings (you can’t respond that she has “only” sought separation because, according to you, the alleged abuse means automatically that there is “no marriage” any more). If she had grievances before Saeed was imprisoned in Iran, she should have taken them to her church and submitted to their discipline process (short of actual physical abuse, which there is no indication was occurring, and which she should have dealt with through law enforcement if it was).
If she felt she had grounds for divorce, she should have taken that issue to her church, again submitting to their discipline/dispute resolution process. If she truly wants reconciliation, which she has said she does, she should never have impugned her husband publicly and made the likelihood of reconciliation much more remote. If he was somehow abusing her from prison and enjoying a cushy imprisonment complete with 24/7 access to a phone, the internet, pornography, etc. — allegations that have yet to be explained in any sensible way — she should not have told everyone in this country that he was isolated from all but the most infrequent contact with the outside world and otherwise mistreated in his imprisonment. However you want to couch her actions while he has been half way around the world and in no position to defend himself and now that he is home and she has refused to communicate with him other than through public court filings, her behavior has been shameful.
I urge you to drop the filter of feminism and apply the filters of scripture and reality.
It is because of comments by people like dmyers that I fear for women who are in harmful abuse situations. For a woman to finally get to the point that she acknowledges that she is really being abused is a huge step. To then share about this abuse to a person of trust, someone she hopes will protect and defend her, is another huge step. But to have enough strength to tell her story again to people like dmyers who will not take her at her word – – – I can’t even fathom. Oh my word, I just don’t have the words to describe the anger I have thinking about how damned women and their children are in this situation. Aren’t we supposed to be defending the oppressed and defenseless? This is freakin’ messed up!