One of the conflicts that confronts many survivors of Domestic Violence & Abuse (DVA) is that which is aggravated by culture. Often faith communities, professionals & other society groups embrace particular cultures in tackling DVA, which may have progressively developed over time.
Survivors, on the other hand, would also be a part of these inter-mingled cultures, which generally influence how they respond to their lived experience of DVA. However, DVA is a more compounded reality for adult & child survivors whose culture is intertwined to their religion & or ethnicity (1, 2).
In such a case, the manifestation of culture towards victims & survivors becomes a barrier to freedom from the pandemic. There is therefore a general need for cultures to shift so that bridges are built where barriers exist, to enable survivors to have an improved experience of walking into their freedom.
Simply defined culture is how we live our lives in terms of norms, lifestyles, & customs. It is learned, not inherited – generated from an individual’s social environment, not their genes (3). Culture is based on ideas and where it is shared, it forms social group’s concepts (3).
From the experiences of women like me, it has been shown that survivors pursuing freedom are accepted by their communities if they ‘remain silent’, ‘brush their experiences under the carpet’, & work to ‘hold their broken marriages together’ – but opposed when they speak up, rip up the carpet, & seek for separation from their perpetrators (4, 5, 6).
This brings untoward tensions & their commitment to their place of belonging – in community & or in God – is judged in such a context, leading to overbearing consequences. Survivors often have to make the radical choice of abandoning their cultural groups to find long lasting freedom in isolation. At the same time, safeguarding professionals also judge a survivor’s commitment to the welfare of her children by the same choice (1).
This option can be appropriate when survivors are initially leaving their perpetrators. However at post-separation new cultural challenges emerge. It is common for faith communities to project for survivors to ‘forgive’ their perpetrators & ‘reconcile’ with them, & for professionals like Social Workers & Family Courts, to expect them to ‘work amicably’ with their perpetrators for the ‘best interests of the children’ (1, 5, 7).
Survivors who find themselves in such cultural concoctions need sharp objectives that are managed diligently in order to build up their ability to find ultimate freedom, amidst all the complexities. At times, there is no easier way than being patient & waiting – for Social Services & Family Courts to complete their proceedings, & to find new ideas for creating a new culture that promotes freedom.
Survivors from faith communities would need to rediscover that God’s love for them is not shaken by cultural concoctions, & that they can still reach out to it to find healing, refreshment, renewal, & revival. Culture purely based on God’s love for people facilitates freedom from oppression, not condemnation.
Instead of abuse, this pure culture offers provision for survivors to find their purpose & fully prosper in it, for their potential to achieve is not removed by DVA, but rather it awaits to be re-activated & exploited.
For society groups around survivors, it is paramount for bridges to be built where barriers exist, to enable survivors to carry less burdens when they journey into their freedom. Cultures like victim-blaming need to be replaced by active accountability, where a better understanding of survivors’ lived experience reforms new cultures that promote complete freedom from DVA.
Active accountability focuses on the responsibility of society’s leaders to take practical action that enforces positive change in their cultural spheres, while holding perpetrators accountable – with practical demonstrations of the consequences of their abusive behaviours, in order to prioritise the needs of survivors.
If cultures are learned, not inherited, it is possible to shift from ideas that have heavily compromised survivors’ pursuit of freedom, to a new shared cultural reformation that empowers survivors to rebuild their lives with due support & resources.
- Thiara, R. K. & Gill, A. K. (2012). Domestic Violence, Child contact and Post-Separation Violence Issues for South Asian and African-Caribbean Women and Children: A Report of Findings. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: London.
- National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. (2007). Religion and Domestic Violence: Information and Resources. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Pennsylvania.
- Spencer-Oatey, H. (2012). What Is Culture? A Compilation Of Quotations. GlobalPAD Core Concepts: Warwick. Online accessed 14 February 2017 at https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/globalpad/openhouse/interculturalskills/global_pad_-_what_is_culture.pdf.
- Chine Mbubaegbu. (2013). Domestic Violence: In Churches Too. Evangelical Alliance: London. Online accessed 14 February 2017 at http://www.eauk.org/idea/domestic-violence-in-churches-too.cfm.
- Methodist Conference 2002 Report. (2002). Domestic Violence and the Methodist Church – the Way Forward. The Report and Recommendations on Domestic Violence and the Methodist Church. Methodist Publishing: Peterborough.
- Rosen, R. (2011). One In Four Jewish Women Suffer Abuse In The Home. The Jewish Chronicle: London. Online accessed 14 February 2017 at
- Women’s Aid. (2016). Child First: Safe Child Contact Saves Lives. Women’s Aid: London. Online accessed 14 February 2017 at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/childfirst/.
© Kudakwashe Nyakudya 2017. All Rights Reserved.