The covering up of Domestic Abuse within evangelical circles

domestic abuseThere is a horrendous story blogged in great detail by Libby Anne over on her blog about the covering up of domestic abuse by evangelicals. You might truly wonder how anybody could cover something like that up, but as the story unfolds she carries you along and you do begin to see exactly what does drive humans to behave like this.

The Story – the short version

Please go read it all, there is a lot more detail.

Basically, it is the story of Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini. They met and married in 2002 and actively took part in the Christian Iranian house church movement. In 2009 Saeed went to Iran for a visit and was picked up and jailed, then after accepting a deal to sign a pledge to renounce the house-church movement, he was permitted to return to the US. In 2012 on a subsequent visit he was once again arrested and then jailed for eight years.

Her wife back in the US worked to see his freed, but then at one point she dropped this bombshell …

In two emails to supporters, Abedini revealed details of her troubled marriage to Saeed Abedini, an American citizen and pastor imprisoned in Iran since September 2012.

Those troubles include “physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse (through Saeed’s addiction to pornography),” she wrote. The abuse started early in their marriage and has worsened during Saeed’s imprisonment, she said. The two are able to speak by phone and Skype.

What happened next is exactly what you might anticipate, she received rather a lot of criticism for daring to speak up and was expected to demonstrate unqualified support for her husband even as he continued the abuse verbally from prison.

Once he was released, she filed for divorce.

Franklin Graham (yes the “Franklin Graham”) steps in with unsubstantiated claims and attempts to undercut Naghmeh’s narrative, and so his specific agenda here is clear, the interests of the belief must trump the domestic abuse issue, and he in effect use religious terms to basically call her a liar.

There is however solid evidence here about what she has been saying …

In 2007, Saeed pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault in Ada County Magistrate Court. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail

The issue is not complex, it really is simple

We are each responsible for our own actions. If indeed Saeed’s ongoing abuse of Naghmeh had resulted in him being left to rot in an Iranian jail, then he would very much have been the architect of his own fall.

What this also brings to light is that manner in which Naghmeh is being pressured via very public emotional blackmail to fall in line, become an obedience wife, and to simply suck it all up and endure. If she takes a stand for her right to not be abused then she would face the charge of “letting Satan win”. 

Within her article Libby Ann draws out several vitally important points …

Point 1 – The issue is not “them” as a couple, it is “Saeed”

I keep seeing people talking about the Naghmeh and Saeed’s “marriage troubles.” That’s a rather fancy way of saying “Saeed is abusive and Naghmeh is trying to decide whether to stay and hope against all history that things will change or whether to leave and create a new life with her children.” By discussing it as “marriage troubles,” the responsibility for fixing their marriage is placed on both Naghmeh and Saeed. Oh, and can we talk about that term, “fixing their marriage”? Their marriage doesn’t need fixing, Saeed needs fixing

Point 2 – It is not just her, there are many others being bullied into silence in a similar manner

A whole bunch of people are upset with Naghmeh for making her husband look bad. That’s just lovely—and it’s something I imagine pastors’ wives feel more keenly than other evangelical women. Coming forward about your abuse will damage your husband’s ministry. Why can’t you just keep quiet and let the Lord do his work? I can’t even imagine the pressure these women must feel. Frankly, the wonder is not that Naghmeh kept quiet for so long but rather that she had the courage to come forward about her abuse at all—and we should all be asking what that means for other evangelical women in abusive marriages. 

If you find yourself in a position in which you are pressuring an abuse victim to be silent, to fall in line, and submit herself to her abuser, then you really do need to step back and seriously ponder over what exactly it is that motivates you to be such a turd.

Her Latest Statement

Her latest statement on Facebook is here …

I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness. I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred. Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

Within the comments under that posting you will find the full spectrum that ranges from the fully supportive all the way through to the vindictively cruel, and that abhorrent behaviour in itself says a great deal about the pressure bearing down upon many who find themselves to be victims being painted as perpetrators.

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