Some Pacific men use Bible to justify domestic violence

domestic violence

Some Pacific men misinterpret Bible verses to justify domestic violence. So says social worker and lecturer Genevieve Sang-Yum.

She runs programmes to help Māori and Pacific men break cycles of violence.

New Zealand is ranked as the worst developed country in the OECD for domestic violence.

Controlling or hitting is normal

Sang-Yum is seeing more and more Pacific men coming through her programme who think it’s “normal to control or hit” their partners.

Many new migrants are just learning about behaviour types that are unacceptable, she says.

She says both female victims and male perpetrators are misinterpreting certain biblical texts.

These include texts concerning “women submitting to men” or being men’s property because Eve was formed from Adam’s rib, for example.

Many men believe it is a woman’s role “to bear children and to help him to do what he wants” Sang-Yum notes.

But there’s “no justification for domestic violence” Dunedin-based Samoan Reverend Alofa Lale says. “Jesus preaches the golden rule to love one another as he has loved us.

“Jesus showed us love, so we should love one another and especially our spouses.”

Sang-Yum is urging Pacific men to take responsibility to love their partners in this deeply sacrificial manner.

Equal partners

“The Bible is harmless and we don’t tell people to stop believing” Sang-Yum says.

Nonetheless, her programmes examine the Biblical text in a wider context and explore abusive behaviour.

Participants also explore “what the language of love looks like. Is love hurtful and abusive?”

“After these aspects, their mindset changes and we talk about equality and love” Sang-Yum says.

By highlighting the word “partner” during sessions with Pacific domestic violence perpetrators, she’s helping redefine the way men view their wives as equals.

“When you pull the text out and highlight the word partnership, it changes their thinking and we talk about equality and what this means.”

Cultural shift needed

Sang-Yum says Pacific Island gender norms are challenged when people move to New Zealand, where men and women are generally seen as equal.

At the same time, men are not taught to talk about their upbringing, or their traumas. They suppress their issues because they have been taught to “just deal with it” says Sang-Yum.

It’s important to have deep conversations through cultural frameworks and language, and to examine beliefs and mindsets that are not true examples of love.

How to get help

If you’re in danger now:

Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.

Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.

Take the children with you. Don’t stop to get anything else.

Women’s Refuge: Crisis line – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)

Shine: Helpline – 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)

She Is Not Your Rehab//InnerBoy App

It’s Not OK: Family violence information line – 0800 456 450

Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children

Crisis line – 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)

Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence

Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services

White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence towards women.

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Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

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