Sunday 4 December 2022 World Cup 3 – Domestic Violence – Skewed Perceptions
from Lamentations 1
She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks…she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away, [She] remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old.…there was no one to help her, the foe looked on mocking over her downfall.
[She ] sinned grievously, so she has become a mockery; all who honoured her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans, and turns her face away.
Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; her downfall was appalling, with none to comfort her. ‘O Lord, look at my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!’
When I lived in Manchester I served as a magistrate. This rewarding volunteer role was, at times, heart rending. I often sat in specialist courts which dealt with domestic violence cases. These courts were particularly busy after major football matches – European competitions, the World Cup or the rather more regular “Manchester Derby” where the city’s two football teams would play each other. Each time there was a Derby the cases of domestic violence would increase. Men, often drunk, would take out their frustrations in the match on the women they lived with. It was frequently difficult to get the victims to testify. The men would blame the women for the violence they themselves inflicted and, tragically, sometimes the victims would blame themselves.
In the selection of verses I have taken from Lamentations 1 we see something similar going on with Jerusalem whom the writer portrays as an abused and forsaken wife. The words are powerful when read in their original context but overpowering when read from the perspective of the abused.
Of course football is not to blame for male violence – any more than women are to blame for it. Yet the perpetrators will blame the alcohol they chose to drink, the fact “their” team lost, or some imagined misdemeanour of the woman they abuse. Rarely will they accept their own culpability and so deny themselves the possibility of growth.
Over time, and once released from poisonous patriarchy, victims can learn to be strong, trust themselves, and be set free.
As you watch or hear news of the football, say a wee prayer for those who live in fear of these games and the consequences. Donate some money to Women’s Aid; encourage your congregation to as well.
We remember, Eternal One, those women who weep bitterly this day, finding no one to comfort them, sometimes, like the ancient writer, blaming themselves Bless with your healing, powerful, liberating love all those agencies who work with women suffering abuse and violence from men. Help us to name the abuse and violence around us, to challenge the abusers, and victims, to see the world as it really is and to find healing and wholeness. Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the minister for Digital Worship and a member of the Peedie Kirk in Orkney.