The Truth About Submissive Women and the Pattern of Domestic Violence


The bible verse "wives should submit to their husbands" is a mistranslation that is often weaponized against women in the church. It creates an uneven power dynamic within families, giving men all authority and placing women in subordinate roles.

The church has a long history of teaching that wives submit to their husbands. The teachings translate into the idea that wives should obey their husbands and not question or disagree with them because the husband is the head of the household, and his word is final. Soft complementarians give women more room to express their opinions; however, men still have the final say in areas with disagreements in opinion.

This belief system leads to domestic violence as it places women in a position where they cannot argue back against whatever decision their husbands make, no matter how harmful it may be for them or even their children.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Churches that believe in women's submission legitimize this power dynamic, and it's dangerous.

Patterns of Abuse in Domestic Violence

Since domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner, it's essential to understand the ways of control. Abuse is not limited to physical violence. Many types of abuse can be present in an abusive relationship, including emotional, physical, sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse.

Physical Violence

The most common type of abuse is physical violence. This type of violence can include hitting, slapping, shoving, or kicking the victim. Physical abuse may also have more extreme acts such as choking or using a weapon against the victim. Patterns of physical violence often escalate and can lead to death.

In the church, violent behavior against the spouse is often discouraged depending on the social culture. However, there are instances where the church handles these cases poorly. For example:

  • Belief System: Women are discouraged from leaving their husbands under scriptural grounds that divorce leads to adultery
  • Victim blaming and the assumption that the wife's lack of submission led to her abuse
  • The belief that people should not seek justice legally or use secular resources for justice outside the church. (Referenced from 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, another scripture weaponized and used out of context).

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is a form of abuse that happens when one partner controls the other partner's finances and basic needs. Victims are often isolated from their friends and family, making it difficult to ask for help and wholly dependent on their abuser.

Financial abusers may use their power to make their partners believe they have no choice but to stay in the relationship, or else they will not have access to money or food. There are multiple ways this can happen, but here are three examples:

  1. The abuser is the only earner in the home and has complete control over the victim's needs.
  2. The abuser leaves all financial responsibility on the victim, causing economic instability and accrual of debt.
  3. The abuser has complete control over mutual assets and controls the victim through overt or subtle withholding of financial needs and wants.

In the church, financial abuse can be harder to prove, depending on the perception the abuser has created. The church handles these cases poorly when:

  • There are financial incentives for the church organization to prioritize one spouse (the breadwinner) over the other.
  • There are strong beliefs in women operating in submissive roles.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is a type of violence that can be even more harmful than physical abuse. It can leave deep scars on women and their children. The abuser may use different methods to control the victim and put them in their place. These methods are called tactics, and they include:

  • Constant insults and criticism.
  • Constant jealousy or possessive behavior.
  • Isolation from natural supports ( family, friends, or community).
  • Controlling outward appearance.
  • Public humiliation.
  • Gaslighting - pretending not to understand, putting your reality in question.
  • Monitoring activities with or without permission.

The church legitimizes some of these abusive practices through teachings like modesty and outward holiness standards(1 Timothy 2:9), cutting off the world to please God (1 John 2:15-17), and that women should be submissive.

Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual abuse is a form of abuse that occurs when religion is used as an instrument to manipulate, dominate, and control.

It is not just the religious leaders who are guilty of this type of abuse. A spiritual abuser can be anyone who uses the norms and values of the faith to manipulate other people. This abuse includes people in positions of authority such as pastors, teachers, parents, or even friends.

The most common type of spiritual abuse is the use of scripture to control others by manipulating their thoughts and behaviors. Weaponizing Scripture can include:

  • Twisting passages.
  • Saying something different from what scripture means.
  • Using fear tactics like threatening hellfire or damnation for those who don't obey specific rules or follow certain teachings.

All of the previous examples of abuse hold some form of spiritual abuse regarding teachings on women in the church.

Why Do Men Abuse Their Partners?

Men are socialized to be in control and dominate. Men learn the church, the media, their fathers, and other influences that men should be in control of women and have power over them. Men who abuse may have been abused themselves or grew up in a place where abuse was normalized.

External influences determine what tools men use to exert power and dominance over partners. Without accountability, men who abuse their partners will not see a reason to change their behavior.

The Perspective of Submissive Women in Domestic Violence

Churches that teach other women to reinforce beliefs on submission create another power dynamic. Women who agree with submissive practices are rewarded through social acceptance, and in the church, this means approval from God.

When women are trained to minimize other women's feelings about facing domestic violence, it creates a detrimental problem. When victims come for help, their behavior is questioned rather than the abuser. Victims are gaslighted when other women are unable or unwilling to empathize and help.

Furthermore, women who believe in submission may face domestic violence and refuse to seek help. Instead, they take on full responsibility for their abuser's behavior. Without a voice to tell them that this behavior is not normal, they may continue to accept their circumstances.

If You're Being Abused by Your Partner...

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender identity, or socioeconomic status.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is the only organization in the U.S. that provides around-the-clock crisis intervention through a toll-free hotline for victims of domestic violence and their family members. If you are being abused, go to or call 1.800.799.SAFE.

It is also vital to connect with family and friends who are willing and able to support you. Also, take time to find online and local support groups.

Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship: From Victim to Survivor to Overcomer by Dr. Ramona Probasco

This book is a memoir of Dr. Ramona Probasco, who was married to a Christian man who was an alcoholic, drug user, and violent abuser.

In the book, she talks about her journey from being a victim to a survivor and finally an overcomer of domestic violence. She also talks about how she found healing in Jesus Christ, escaped the cycle of violence, and learned how forgiveness leads to internal peace.

This book is both inspirational and enlightening for those who are going through similar situations and those looking for ways to help them heal.

Post a Comment