A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Abuse - Domestic Violence

Among the signs of moral downfall in the declining social order are the high incidence of violence within the family, the increase in degrading and cruel treatment of spouses and children, and the spread of sexual abuse. It is essential that the members of the community of the Greatest Name take the utmost care not to be drawn into acceptance of such practices because of their prevalence. They must be ever mindful of their obligation to exemplify a new way of life distinguished by its respect for the dignity and rights of all people, by its exalted moral tone, and by its freedom from oppression and from all forms of abuse.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)


At present the prevailing method, within the Australian community, of treating domestic violence, is to advise the couple to separate and to seek treatment from professional counseling services. It is suggested that Assemblies follow this method of treating domestic violence also. If, alternatively, the couple is counseled to remain together to try and reconcile their differences, there can be no guarantee that the violence will not recur, in which case the Assembly could appear, inadvertently, to be condoning it. If the couple separate, however, the role of the Assembly can then become that of providing an independent forum within which the couple can come together and try to resolve their differences.
(National Spiritual Assembly of Australia’s Policy Regarding Domestic Violence, From Australian Bahá’í Bulletin, July 1990)


Bahá’í men have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world around them a new approach to the relationship between the sexes, where aggression and the use of force are eliminated and replaced by cooperation and consultation.
(Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)


Bahá’u’lláh also stressed the importance of consultation. We should not think this worthwhile method of seeking solutions is confined to the administrative institutions of the Cause. Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict. Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives.
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 1, 1978)


Family violence is a global and pernicious problem … [that] must be addressed by the world community. It is not a private matter, but has become a global pandemic that the international community can neither ignore nor allow to be protected within the privacy of the family. It is an affliction that ravages all regions of the world, all economic and educational strata and all types of families. The family is the primary locus of human socialization and development. If that development process is denied or distorted, the adverse consequences can be irreversible. Behaviors learned in the home are replicated in the wider society.
(Bahá’í International Community, Creating Violence-Free Families, Summary Report of United Nations Symposium, May 1994)


For a man to use force to impose his will on a woman is a serious transgression of the Bahá’í Teachings.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)


He [the seeker] must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 87)


Hold thy husband dear and always show forth an amiable temper towards him, no matter how ill tempered he may be. Even if thy kindness maketh him more bitter, manifest thou more kindliness, more tenderness, be more loving and tolerate his cruel actions and ill-treatment.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 226)


If a Bahá’í woman suffers abuse or is subjected to rape by her husband, she has the right to turn to the assembly for assistance and counsel, or to seek legal protection. Such an abuse would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)


In His “Tablet of the World” Bahá’u’lláh states that the “People of God” are forbidden “to engage in contention and conflict.” In view of such statements and the stress laid by both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on love and harmony as the hallmark of marriage, the law for which Bahá’u’lláh describes as a “fortress for well-being and salvation;” and in view of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s exhortation that each member of the family must uphold the rights of the others, it becomes obvious that violence in the family is antithetical to the spirit of the Faith and a practice to be condemned.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 22 September, 1983)


In any group, however loving the consultation, there are nevertheless points on which, from time to time, agreement cannot be reached. In a Spiritual Assembly this dilemma is resolved by a majority vote. There can, however, be no majority where only two parties are involved, as in the case of a husband and wife. There are, therefore, times when a wife should defer to her husband, and times when a husband should defer to his wife, but neither should ever unjustly dominate the other. In short, the relationship between husband and wife should be as held forth in the prayer revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which is often read at Bahá’í weddings: “Verily, they are married in obedience to Thy command. Cause them to become the signs of harmony and unity until the end of time.”
(From a letter Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 July, 1987)


It is clearly evident from the Bahá’í teachings that no husband should subject his wife to abuse of any kind, much less to violence; such a reprehensible action is the antithesis of the relationship of mutual respect and equality enjoined by the Bahá’í Writings—a relationship governed by the principles of Bahá’í consultation and totally devoid of the use of force to compel obedience to one’s will. Of course, the prohibition against subjecting one’s marriage partner to physical force applies to women, as well.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 25 September, 1987)


It is said, “The beast made war against these two witnesses”—that is to say, a spiritual war, meaning that the beast would act in entire opposition to the teachings, customs and institutions of these two witnesses, to such an extent that the virtues and perfections which were diffused by the power of those two witnesses among the peoples and tribes would be entirely dispelled, and the animal nature and carnal desires would conquer. Therefore, this beast making war against them would gain the victory—meaning that the darkness of error coming from this beast was to have ascendency over the horizons of the world, and kill those two witnesses—in other words, that it would destroy the spiritual life which they spread abroad in the midst of the nation, and entirely remove the divine laws and teachings, treading under foot the Religion of God. Nothing would thereafter remain but a lifeless body without spirit.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 51)


Many of those who are abusers in the home do not think of themselves as abusers, do not usually have difficulty controlling their actions outside the home, generally have good work and social relationships and may even be pillars of the community, a pattern that clearly indicates that most abusers are in control of their actions and simply choose to act aggressively in the home. Unfortunately, this pattern often lends itself to disbelief in victims’ reports of abusive behavior by “good” or “respectable” Bahá’ís and may lead to unfounded accusations of backbiting on the part of the abused party.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 105).


No Bahá’í husband should ever beat his wife, or subject her to any form of cruel treatment; to do so would be an unacceptable abuse of the marriage relationship and contrary to the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)


No husband should subject his wife to abuse of any kind, whether emotional, mental or physical.... When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance, and might also find it highly advantageous to seek the assistance of competent professional counsellors. If the husband is also a Bahá’í, the Local Spiritual Assembly can bring to his attention the need to avoid abusive behaviour and can, if necessary, take firm measures to encourage him to conform to the admonitions of the teachings. There have been many instances in which a couple, through a consecrated and determined effort, aided by the power of prayer and the advice of experts, succeeded in overcoming seemingly insuperable obstacles to their reconciliation and in reconstructing a strong foundation for their marriage. There are also innumerable examples of individuals who have been able to effect drastic and enduring changes in their behaviour, through drawing on the spiritual powers available by the bounty of God. As you know, in the Bahá’í Faith, divorce is discouraged and should be resorted to only when a prolonged effort to effect reconciliation has been unsuccessful. However, it should also be noted that divorce is permissible when an irreconcilable antipathy exists between the two parties to the marriage.
(Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 458)


No statements dealing directly with violence in the family have come to light from the Writings; however, the House of Justice feels that the absence of specific references to the subject should not be construed as implying that we do not have the necessary guidance in the Faith to treat the problems cited in your letter. Acts of violence might properly be regarded as a negation of the persistent emphasis on concord, understanding and unity which are at the heart of the Bahá’í Teachings, and the sacred Writings are replete with advice as to how these positive objectives may be attained. In His “Tablet of the World” Bahá’u’lláh states, “The distinguishing feature that marketh the pre-eminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God’s Holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, or understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.”
(National Spiritual Assembly of Australia’s Policy Regarding Domestic Violence, From Australian Bahá’í Bulletin, July 1990)


Now that you realize that your husband is ill, you should be able to reconcile yourself to the difficulties you have faced with him emotionally, and not take an unforgiving attitude, however much you may suffer.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)


Often with cases of domestic violence, individuals do not take their problems to the Assembly for a number of reasons. They may be embarrassed to do so as it will indicate that they have been violated as a human being; they feel it might bring shame to their families; they are frightened if they do, domestic violence will be even more severe; or they may feel that the Assembly is not competent in dealing with this problem of theirs. There may be other reasons. If individuals feel that they cannot tell their Local Assembly, they should go to the National Spiritual Assembly. Such a situation may arise if, for example, one of the parties to the conflict is serving on the Local Spiritual Assembly.
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, dated April 12, 1990)


Overcoming domestic violence requires developing an environment in the community in which abusive behavior is not tolerated, in which individuals are sensitive to the warning signs of abuse, in which no individuals or families are so isolated that they have no one to turn to in times of difficulty, and in which there is a “spirit of loving encouragement and support to families...”
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 119)


Overcoming domestic violence is one of the urgent needs of this age and the suffering resulting from it may become the cause of seeking spiritual solutions to the problems of society and of striving with heart and soul to understand and apply those solutions to prevent further suffering. The hard-won wisdom such suffering and searching bring to the development of individuals, families communities, and institutions may be one of the most precious fruits of the mystery of suffering, inspiring and motivating the struggle towards creating healthier families for a happier and more peaceful world.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 135).


Recognizing that suffering may be the cause of spiritual development is never a justification for inflicting or ignoring abuse, failing to assist those who are suffering abuse, or failing to call to account one who is perpetrating abuse. But for those who have suffered abuse and are struggling to rebuild unity, to heal or transform themselves and their relationships, or to continue on in the face of intractable difficulties, it may be a source of courage and solace to know that such trials provide the opportunity for spiritual progress.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 134).


Spiritual Assemblies should be aware that often the perpetrator of domestic violence views himself (or herself) as a person who has a problem which he or she has tried to solve in other ways which have failed, so violence is now being used as a last resort. This assumption of authority is contrary to the Bahá’í teachings that both marriage partners have equal rights in family decision-making and neither has authority over the other: … there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other. Exactly under what circumstances such deference should take place, is a matter for each couple to determine.
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 16 May, 1982)


The House of Justice is pleased to learn from your letter that both you and your husband are receiving professional therapy, in addition to the counselling you are receiving from your Local Spiritual Assembly. There have been many instances in which a Bahá’í couple has, through a consecrated and determined effort, aided by the power of prayer and the advice of experts, succeeded in overcoming seemingly insuperable obstacles to their reconciliation and in reconstructing a strong foundation for their marriage.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 July, 1987)


The National Spiritual Assembly will not tolerate domestic violence and condemns its existence. Violent acts are forbidden. The Universal House of Justice has said: “Acts of violence might properly be regarded as a negation of the persistent emphasis on concord, understanding and unity which are at the heart of the Bahá’í Teachings.”
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 22 September, 1983)


The National Spiritual Assembly wishes to convey to the Bahá’í community a clear message that acts of domestic violence are at complete variance with the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and that violence in the family is a practice to be condemned. In addition, domestic violence is a criminal act in the United States. Such behaviors, on the part of either men or women, are rooted in longstanding social practices connected with an inability or unwillingness to apply the fundamental spiritual principle of the equality of women and men, and to recognize the fundamental right of every human being to be treated with consideration and respect.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 20).


The penalties for wounding or striking a person depend upon the severity of the injury; for each degree the Lord of Judgement hath prescribed a certain indemnity. He is, in truth, the Ordainer, the Mighty, the Most Exalted. We shall, if it be Our Will, set forth these payments in their just degrees - this is a promise on Our part, and He, verily, is the Keeper of His pledge, the Knower of all things.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 40)


There are instances when the victim of domestic violence is male rather than female. In such cases, the Local Assembly must act immediately to protect, in the same way it would for a female, with respect and sensitivity to issues that may be relevant from the perspective of male victims. Fear of embarrassment and ridicule due to cultural stereotypes, lack of skill in expressing emotions, lack of support in the criminal justice system and fear of reprisal may contribute to reluctance on the part of male victims to seek or accept assistance.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 97).


There is a case recorded where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to a Western believer who had sought His advice. She was told that she should remain faithful and forbearing towards her husband but, should his cruelty become unendurable, she should leave him to himself and live separately from him, as this was better and more acceptable.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 July, 1987)


This motivation [to change] is often propelled by the courage of those who report the offence, even in the face of the possibility of temporarily increasing the danger to the victim. Allowing the situation to continue, by silence, may very well be the greater evil.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Canadian Bahá’í News, Kalimát, B.E. 150, p. 44)


Violence against women is a yardstick by which one can measure the violation of all human rights. It can be used to gauge the degree to which a society is governed by aggressivity, dominated by competition and ruled by force. Abusive practices against women have frequently been and are still being justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded “scientific theories” and assumptions. But whatever its political or religious system, a society patterned on dominance inevitably gives rise to such distortions of power as violence against women.
(Bahá’í International Community, Ending Violence Against Women, Statement to 51st session of UN Commission on Human Rights, March 1995).


When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation [of domestic violence] and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance…
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, dated April 12, 1990)


Which aspects of domestic violence are considered crimes depend upon the particular circumstances, as well as the laws of the state in which the act occurs. In addition to physical violence, direct or indirect threats of violence that cause a reasonable person to believe that she or he is in danger may be crimes. Certain acts of domestic violence, whether or not subject to criminal punishment, may be grounds for restrictions on personal conduct, such as court orders of protection or restraint to prevent offenders having contact with the abused.
(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.27).