Domestic and family violence is not always physical abuse. Often it includes different types of harmful behaviours. These behaviours may not only have an immediate impact on victims but can also leave them with serious long-lasting psychological damage.
Non-physical forms of violence vary and may include verbal, financial, social, and even spiritual abuse. Perpetrators often use manipulative tactics such as emotional blackmail in an effort to coerce, curb, and control their victim’s behaviour. This form of abuse is also known as “coercive control.”
Professor Evan Stark, sociologist and forensic social worker, who first developed the concept, has described “coercive control” as a “liberty crime” and likened it to “domestic hostage taking.”
Coercive control has been defined as a “tactical pattern of behaviour that is designed by the perpetrator to control, intimidate, create dependency, and render the victim powerless.”
Abusers use psychological “pressuring tactics” to manipulate their victims into believing that if there is no change of behaviour, then the victim is responsible for the threatened consequences.
According to an Australian study published in May last year, researchers found that perpetrators often used threats of self-harm and suicide to gain control over others.
“Qualitative data showed that threats of self-harm were a common tactic of coercive control used by men to instil fear and exert power, predominately in the context of divorce and custody battles,” the study revealed.
Speaking of the findings, Scott Fitzpatrick, Research Fellow at Australian National University, said, the abusers’ actions appeared to be “based on a belief that threats of self-harm would force women into changing their behaviour.”
Fitzpatrick continued, “When change did not occur, suicide became a final act by which some men sought to punish women who they felt had wronged them. In some cases, men left spiteful messages or damaged (ex) partners’ personal belongings.”
The Victorian Government identified “threatened or attempted self-harm or suicide” as an indication of “controlling behaviour” that is a “key warning sign to be taken seriously,” as it is often a predicator of severe physical violence and homicide.
A document on the state government’s website, titled “Recognising suicide risk in the context of adult people using violence,” warns that within the family violence context, threats of self-harm and suicide are an “extension of controlling behaviours by a person using violence.”
The document notes: “At times it may be challenging to differentiate between suicidal ideation linked to depression/distress as opposed to acts of control… Suicide risk is likely higher at the time of, or directly after, situational stressors occur, and/or in a change within the person’s life involves a loss of control or power.”
When coercive control tactics are used, an abuser is attempting to convince the victim that their behaviour is responsible for the perpetrator’s negative actions. It is to say, if the victim does not change by meeting the abuser’s demands, then the victim is to blame for whatever the perpetrator does next, regardless of how irrational it may be.
Understandably, this kind of abuse is commonly described by victims as the worst form of abuse experienced due to its continuing and devastating psychological impacts.
While this method of manipulating people through coercive control tactics is rightly condemned within the context of personal relationships, it is today commonly wielded by governments, interest groups, and activists to silence and shame (and eventually prosecute) Christians who will not abandon their convictions by affirming ideologies that are fundamentally contradictory to their own.
How often is it insinuated, or outright stated, that Christians are responsible for higher self-harm and suicide rates among certain groups in society because they will not condone what the Bible does not? Christians are told that they must reject the Bible, or at least, some portions of it, whenever it is found to contradict “protected” ideologies. Those who refuse, are characterised as dangerous individuals. Their faith is portrayed as “psychologically detrimental” and potentially life-threatening to those that are intolerant of Christianity and live contrary to Christian values.
As such, there is an expectation that Christians ought to denounce God as a liar, or at least, affirm the Bible is wrong on matters pertaining to sex, marriage, and gender. To do otherwise, is akin to “murdering trans kids,” as Christians have previously been accused.
“Abandon your convictions,” Christians are continually told, “or else people start killing themselves.” Sound familiar? Isn’t threatening self-harm and suicide because people won’t behave the way you want them to a form of coercive control? It is, after all, to suggest that the only way a Christian can maintain their position, is at the expense of somebody else’s personal well-being, or even life.
We recently witnessed something of this after a “trans man” murdered six Christians, including three children, at a Christian school in Nashville last month. Mainstream news outlets were quick to reframe the situation by appearing to imply that Christians were partly responsible for the murderer’s actions.
Here’s just a small sampling of appalling news headlines that were pumped out in the days following the massacre:
The Daily Mail: “Mass school shooter was rejected by her Christian parents…”
Reuters: “Former Christian school student killed 3 children, 3 staff…”
NBC: “Fear pervades trans community amid focus on shooter’s gender identity: ‘We were already fearing for our lives. Now, it’s even worse.”
The NZ Herald: “Claims Audrey Hale was rejected by family who ‘couldn’t accept’ trans identity.”
CNN: “Shooter may have resented having to attend Covenant School.”
The Daily Mail: “Trans activists slam ‘radical religious schools’ in response to mass shooting.”
Not to be outdone by Biden’s White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, who, just days after the shooting, declared that it is actually transgender people who are “under attack” by those who seek to ban irreversible “transitioning” procedures for minors and by school teachers who will not use a student’s preferred pronouns.
Once again Rome is burning, and Christians are getting the blame. But that’s hardly anything new. Despite what the current “oppressed” (read “privileged”) class may say, Christians have been subject to social rejection, oppression, and violent persecution for two millennia. But it’s what they don’t have that’s particularly noteworthy: they’re not killing themselves and they’re not killing others.
Think about that for just a moment. Christians are, quite literally, the most persecuted and oppressed religious group in the world. In fact, it’s worse today than at any time in history.
In 2018, the U.K.’s then-Foreign Secretary commissioned a report that found persecution of Christians is nearing ‘genocide levels.’
The report stated: “Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution but also its increasing severity. In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide…”
According to Open Doors, there are presently more than 340 million Christians suffering oppression and persecution, with one out of eight subject to the severest forms. Every 24 hours, 13 Christians are killed, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and another five are abducted. In the past 20 years, more than 2.4 million Christians have been killed through targeted bombings, shootings, and beheadings. At least 75% of all religiously motivated violence and oppression is suffered by Christians.
Among those who suffer the most are Christian women who are reported to experience a “double persecution” – one for being a Christian and another for being a woman. It’s estimated that every day, at least six Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into a Muslim marriage under the threat of death.
And to make matters worse, Western media, politicians, and elites are committed to remaining silent about the atrocities the church suffers. In fact, most of them have joined the global effort to demonise the Christian faith.
As such, Westerners who have for decades reaped the benefits of their Christian heritage, are being groomed to believe that Christians are the real “oppressors.” Is it any wonder we never hear about the devastating plight of Christians elsewhere? It undermines the current narrative that Christians are the “bad guys” – a narrative often reaffirmed right across modern entertainment, film, television, and music.
It is this narrative that has helped to justify the ongoing discrimination and mistreatment of Christians, even in our supposedly free, democratic nations. By simply affirming their faith, countless believers have had their careers ended and relationships destroyed. They’ve been financially ruined, they’ve been prosecuted, they’ve received death threats, they’ve been maligned and slandered as haters, bigots, and even terrorists. Some have been physically assaulted, and others, murdered.
And yet, despite the social shame often associated with being a “Bible-believing Christian,” they’re not self-harming or killing themselves at a disproportionate rate. In fact, several studies suggest that Christians are less likely to attempt suicide than those with no religious affiliation at all.
So, if social rejection doesn’t necessarily make the difference, is it not sensible to ask whether something else might be at play here? Especially considering the lengths our culture has gone to in an effort to be more “inclusive.” There’s no foreigner that would visit our shores, look around at the never-ending sea of rainbows, and conclude that it represents a grossly oppressed class.
As Australian MP David Limerick recently said: “If you have the full backing of the state, corporations and the media; If you have violent mobs willing to silence and bash anyone who questions you; If you insist on using state power to force people to speak, act and think in a way you desire. You aren’t oppressed.”
If “Trans Lives Matter,” and they do, then is it fair for politicians, media heads, and activists to misdiagnose the problem of self-harm and suicide by continually pinning it on their Bible-believing grandmother and her local church? Is it not rather exploitative to accuse Christians of “murdering trans kids” in an effort to pass legislation that would pressure believers to abandon their convictions?
We need to call out those who resort to abusive “coercive control” tactics to silence and shame Christians into renouncing their faith. It’s wrong in the context of personal relationships, and it’s wrong when it’s normalized and employed by people in positions of power and influence.
“Do what we say, or else,” is not a politically persuasive argument. It’s a threat.