Abuse has been implicated in numerous studies as a causal factor for both adults and children in a diverse range of mental, emotional, and physical ills.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 28)
As the patterns of behavior constituting domestic violence are often embedded at an unconscious level of presumed acceptability, both culturally and experientially, it may be helpful to enumerate in detail a range of the behaviors that are characteristically seen in domestic violence in the United States. Several of these behaviors may characterize the pattern of a particular individual and may vary widely in the degree of severity to which they are acted out. While intended to assist Bahá’í communities to have a more consistent understanding of domestic violence, it should be borne in mind that the following list is not exhaustive:
? Physical abuse, which is non-accidental physical injury resulting from such actions as shaking, hair pulling, slapping, hitting, shoving, blocking, kicking, choking, inflicting burns, stabbing, or other acts causing physical harm, even of an apparently insignificant nature, or endangerment, such as abandoning in an unsafe place.
? Sexual abuse, which ranges from harassment (unwelcome sexual attention, including, but not limited to, sexually suggestive “looks,” innuendoes, language, touching, coercion to dress in uncomfortable ways, and/or unwanted exposure to pornographic or sexually suggestive material) to outright sexual molestation, assault, rape, incest, or forcible or uninformed involvement in the creation of pornography. Such behaviors in relation to children are especially abhorrent. They are as reprehensible in a marital relationship as in any other relationship.
? Economic abuse, which may include but is not limited to, fraud or coercion in financial affairs, withholding money or preventing the abused party from getting or holding a job, opening a bank account, pursuing an education, obtaining routine or specialized medical care, or from obtaining assistance from a relative, friend or social service agency.
? Destroying or damaging property, or threatening to do so. This may include, but is not limited to, throwing things, breaking, burning or defacing things, punching holes in doors or walls, hoarding trash and prohibiting the abused individual from disposing of it, and creating dirt, disorder and filth in the living environment.
? Neglect, which involves failing to meet the reasonable needs of a dependent, such as an underage child, a disabled family member, or an elderly parent. Neglect often incorporates aspects of other kinds of abuse.
? Abandonment or desertion, which occurs most devastatingly to children, immigrants and the elderly.
? Emotional and verbal abuse, which is a repetitive pattern of behavior denigrating the abused party’s sense of self worth, such as name-calling, belittling and sarcastic comments that continually “beat down” self-esteem. It may also include humiliating, rejecting, or ignoring the abused party in private or in public.
* For children, this may occur in a repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incidents that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting another’s needs.
* For adults, this may be a relationship where the offender continuously degrades or belittles the abused or accuses them of being stupid, unattractive, a bad parent, unfaithful or any other similar fault and can be considered an indicator of domestic violence or the potential for domestic violence.
? Corrupting is a special category of abuse most often involving children or youth that involves teaching them that “right is wrong and wrong is right,” such that they are unable to distinguish the difference or to have normal social relationships, and may be particularly relevant in cases involving sexual abuse.
? Stalking, or persistent unwelcome attention. Stalking generally refers to repeated harassing or threatening behavior, such as following a victim, appearing uninvited at a victim’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a victim’s property. These actions may or may not be accompanied by a credible threat of serious harm.
? Using coercion and threats to intimidate or terrorize and control the behavior of the abused party. This may include threats of abduction or loss of custody of children, injury to family members or to pets and, in cases of immigrants, may include threats of deportation.
? Isolating the abused party from family, friends or social contacts. This may evolve into a pattern of self-isolation on the part of the abused party to appease the offender, out of shame or out of a growing inability to relate to people with more normal lives.
? Minimizing or denying to the abused party or to others the impact or existence of abuse.
? Blaming the abused party for causing the abuse or of being responsible for the behavior, personality or character of the abuser.
The dangerous potential of [abusive] behaviours should not be minimized by assuming that Bahá’ís in general or that any particular individual would be too spiritually evolved to commit a criminal act.
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States,
Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, pp. 24-25
Even if this Lifegiver and World Reformer be in thine estimation guilty of sedition and strife, what crime could have been committee by a group of women, children, and suckling mothers that they should be thus afflected with the scourge of thine anger and wrath? No faith or religion hath ever held children responsible. The Pen of divine Command hath exempted them, yet the fire of thy tyranny and oppression encompasseth all. If thou bearest allegiance to any faith or religion, then thou shouldst know that, according to all the heavenly Books and all the divinely inspired and weighty Scriptures, children are not to be held accountable. Aside from this, not even those who disbelieve in God have perpetrated such unseemly acts. Since from every thing an effect becometh manifest, a fact that none can deny save those who are bereft of reason and understanding, it is certain that the sighs of these children and the cries of these wronged ones will have their due consequence.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 161)
Every time My name “the All-Merciful” was told that one of My lovers had breathed a word that runneth counter to My wish, it repaired, grief-stricken and disconsolate to its abode; and whenever My name “the Concealer” discovered that one of My followers had inflicted any shame or humiliation on his neighbor, it, likewise, turned back chagrined and sorrowful to its retreats of glory, and there wept and mourned with a sore lamentation. And whenever My name “the Ever-Forgiving” perceived that any one of My friends had committed any transgression, it cried out in its great distress, and, overcome with anguish, fell upon the dust, and was borne away by a company of the invisible angels to its habitation in the realms above.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 308)