While statistics vary, it is estimated that one in six women and one in twenty men have experienced violence at the hands of their partner. A disturbing report was issued last week suggesting that the figure for women is as high as one in four. This is a disgrace that must surely be confronted in the interests of safety and protection, but how? Whilst the necessity of reporting crimes threatening any minors is obvious, courageous support of adults against perpetrators is often thwarted by complex fears and practicalities that require sensitivity. A major hot potato is legislation regarding alcohol sales (“degreasing” the social lubricant), whilst the social conditioning of attitudinal adjustments also has an important place.
Overturning the prevalence of chauvinism in some sub-cultures is not so simple, even though it is essential to eliminating violence against women and children. Some would obligate all men to owning the problem but thereby breed resentment at tarring them with the same brush of culpability. I doubt that various sectors of the media would take much of the blame either, but these could represent a helpful vehicle for any cultural reshaping. After all, the media has often been a tool for successfully encouraging freedom of speech whilst also deciding on the right speech to freely endorse!
The fact is, though, that we invite trouble as a society while we remain lenient on liquor licensing, given the clear link between alcohol and violence. I applaud any extra powers given to police for bringing perpetrators of family violence to justice, for they bear the brunt of the problem unlike any other community leaders or agencies. However, when a recent Monash University and Ambulance Victoria study showed that new packaged liquor outlets bring a 35% increase in intentional injuries to their local area, legislation is clearly falling short.
Sadly, the very difficult burden of proof remains on objectors to provide concrete local evidence (i.e. not from other towns or cities) to slow the encroachment of deep-pocketed chain outlets who hide behind such protections. They then continue to bleat in defence of their freedom of trade, profiteering from the indirect fuelling of a domestic crime that our society seems to lack any serious collective will to combat.
As a pastor, I am sometimes accused of naivety regarding the underground nature of family violence in church communities. Not so. Church leaders clearly and regularly see the damage that newly-erected packaged liquor outlets cause and hear many stories of alcohol abuse from varied backgrounds. But we also see how submission to the Christian gospel changes lives and frees many people from the adverse impact of alcohol. The “Fruit of the Spirit” such as love, patience, self-control and peace are in evidence in changed individuals set free from the cause and effect of their former addiction, notwithstanding the fact that many people in churches lead busy or complex lives that can strangulate their access to such divine intervention.
The power of God to change people should never blind us to the prevalence of examples to the contrary. However, to deny the obviously increased successes in churches on the basis of a handful of anomalies is to shun a vital source of social transformation which is too often unwelcomed in a culture of suspicion and indifference toward Bible-based churches. Many of these continue to see startling examples of freedom won from alcohol abuses and the social ills these have caused. That is a trend that needs to achieve even greater success in the near future.