Terms used to minimize abuse
Feathers ruffled — Makes one party the equivalent of a giant bird.
Scuffle — Sounds so harmless, just a scuffle. Nothing to be concerned with.
Tiff — Really, anything that has 2 Fs in it can’t be so bad.
Disagreement — Sin levels by mutualizing. Makes abuse look like a difference of opinion that could be easily resolved if the target would just be more compliant.
Misunderstanding — Just explain some more then there will be understanding. Superpastors love to believe it’s a misunderstanding where they can offer super insight into the issues and save a marriage!
Dispute — It’s a little aggressive. Problem could probably be solved if the target would placate better and submit more effectively.
Relationship problems — Sin leveling by mutualizing. Makes the relationship the problem, not the abuser’s abuse. Another Superpastor magnet.
Heated discussion or debate — An air conditioner could solve this. Or maybe just get Superpastor to give the abuser better communication skills.
Squabble — Sounds so innocent, almost like a board game.
Quarrel — Oh, now here’s a sin. And you know who the sinner is? The unsubmissive quarrelsome wife. Make her write verses on submission 100 times and that’ll fix her.
Falling out — They’ve fallen and they can’t get up. Sounds like a job for Superpastor!
Feud — Sin leveling by mutualizing. Both parties are guilty. If the target would placate, the feud would end.
Intimacy anorexia — Sounds like a bad Hallmark movie. Grab some Ben & Jerry’s and some tissues. This poor abuser has intimacy anorexia. Hurting people hurt people, you know.
Skirmish – Is that like a scrimmage? Just a practice game? It’s a skirmish, nothing to worry about.
Marital turbulence — Superpastors who toss this term out wanted to be fighter pilots, but some rich relative would only pay for college if they went to seminary. To make up for lost dreams, they invent airplane-related difficulties to conquer. Fasten your seat belts. There’s marital turbulence ahead. But Super
pilotpastor will lead you to to clear skies if you’ll just do all he says. Nope. That’s the highway to the Danger Zone.
Commitment phobia — This is a pity play. Anything related to “phobias” is intended to make the target believe it’s her responsibility to nurse the poor patient to health. Commitment isn’t a spider (arachnophobia is real y’all…). If you don’t want to honor your commitment to not abuse, go.
I can’t entice you to love and honor God by playing nurse to your (non spider related) phobias.
I saw a news story about a celebrity whose relationship ended amid abuse allegations. The article called it a squabble. This got me to thinking about terms many use to minimize abuse. I see it often in news stories. I’ve heard it from the pulpit. I’ve heard abusers use minimizing terms. So I thought I’d write down as many as I could think of for your reference. If you hear your report of abuse re-framed in these or other minimizing terms, it seems like a good indicator that you’re not going to get help from that person. I throw a big red flag on that play and suggest you find a place that doesn’t look to minimize your plea for help.
Ellie is now offering a private translation service. For more info email her at EllieCriesForJustice@gmail.com. [Ellie’s translation service is no longer available. Editors.]
Long postscript by Barb Roberts
The language used about domestic abuse is not just important for churches. A journalist’s choice of words can be very influential, either in perpetuating myths and stereotypes about domestic abuse, or in helping to prevent abuse by educating bystanders, empowering victims and calling perpetrators to accountability. Here are some resources for journalists and anyone who is writing or teaching about domestic abuse:
Responsible Reporting Guidelines for Journalists [Internet Archive link] — a 2 page document produced in Australia
Family Violence in the News: A Media Toolkit — go here [Internet Archive link] and scroll down to find the link where you can download this toolkit as a pdf. In developing this toolkit, a focus group of survivors of family violence were consulted. Barb Roberts happened to be one of the people in that focus group. 🙂
The toolkit references two studies (2001 and 2009) of how domestic violence was reported in various newspapers in Australia. Thankfully, journalists in Australia are generally reporting domestic violence much better nowadays. But it’s still worth keeping in mind the problems which these studies revealed, not least because it’s very possible that these problems still exist in many other parts of the world.
The problems were:
- Newspaper headlines often used the term domestic dispute, implying equal power between those involved and giving the impression that the violence was of a private nature.
- Sometimes ‘witty’ or facetious headlines were used to attract reader attention, having the effect of trivialising the actual violence.
- Reports often exhibited gender bias in terms of the language used, information sources and respective portrayal of males and females.
- Stories drawn from court reports often sourced information from the defence when the accused was male; the from prosecution when the accused was female.
- Articles often sensationalised abuse.
- Inappropriate and irrelevant detail was occasionally reported for the purpose of generating humour.
- Commonly, reports explained circumstances that preceded incidents of family violence, suggesting that the violence constituted justifiable behaviour given the circumstances and could therefore be excused. — Examples included relationship breakdown, jealousy, a partner wanting to divorce, child-custody disputes, demanding workloads and/or other professional pressures and financial interests.
- Portraits of perpetrators as seemingly ‘good guys’, with descriptions of hobbies and devoted relationships were reported. Female victims, conversely, were sometimes portrayed as ‘bad girls’, commonly inferring that they were promiscuous. This supported the common tendency to transfer blame to females who were victims of violence, at least partially exonerating males who used violence against females.
- The relationship between offender and victim was often not mentioned. This reinforces perceptions of random violence against women versus the more significant risk of abuse at the hands of associates, intimates and family.
- Alcohol was commonly inferred to be the cause of male violence towards women, as were disagreements and arguments.
- ‘Spurned lovers’ and ‘love made him do it’ myths were often supported by the press.
- Perceptions that women who remain in abusive relationships deserve to be abused were highlighted without any exploration or explanation of the reasons why women remain.
- Limited coverage or explicit identification of family violence serves to further the belief of its rarity, despite statistical evidence to the contrary.
- Females who were victims of male violence were usually identified in the context of a familial relationship, e.g. ‘wife’. In contrast, males who used violence against women were described in a professional context, e.g. ‘soldier’, ‘detective’.