Tag Archives: porn

The Courageous and Wise Naghmeh Abedini

Abedini_Statesman_Jones

“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.  Most people describe emotional abuse as being far more painful and traumatic than physical abuse.  One only has to read reports of prisoners of war to begin to understand the traumatic effects of psychological warfare using emotionally abusive tactics–and this is when the behavior is perpetrated by one’s enemy.  When the abusive behavior is perpetrated by someone who promises to love and cherish you, it is even more devastating and destructive.

Leslie Vernick, “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”

Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, campaigned vigorously for three and a half years for the release of her husband from an Iranian prison.  She has always displayed tremendous grace and a brave, beautiful spirit.  Saeed’s imprisonment was unjust, cruel and horrifying, and thousands were praying and advocating for him.  Iran finally released Saeed on January 16th and early this week he was back home in Idaho and has been reunited with his parents and children.

But not Naghmeh.

In November, Naghmeh wrote a personal email to prayer partners explaining that she would be halting her advocacy of Saeed on grounds of emotional and sexual abuse and his addiction to pornography.  Her confidential message was leaked to the press and suddenly their marriage has been put under the glare of public scrutiny.  I have been following this story all along and have seen support and love expressed to Naghmeh on her personal Facebook page, and also disgusting, cruel comments on articles from unsympathetic Christians who are disappointed that Saeed’s reputation has been tarnished.  Even ugly speculations that she has fabricated this story so that she could move on to another romantic relationship.

I am so proud of Naghmeh.

It is not easy for a victim of abuse to speak up.  I can only imagine that she has brought her abuse to the attention of others from time to time over the years only to receive minimal or no help.  She was not trying to “out” Saeed as an abuser.  She was desperate for relief from the emotional torture.

Sadly, much of Christendom continues to operate under the oppressive system of patriarchy.  Men are given privilege and women are subjugated and the conditions become ripe for abuse.  Yesterday, Wheaton College professor Michael Mangis said, “I have stated publicly and in my classes that white patriarchy reigns virtually unchallenged in cultural evangelicalism….Patriarchy has evolved to maintain and protect the illusion, for men, that we are entitled to be obeyed and served.”

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

There are women in your church who are victims of domestic violence.  If your church doesn’t talk about domestic violence, it is probably even more prevalent.  Is your church a safe place where victims are heard, violence is condemned, and brothers and sisters in Christ are encouraged to love and submit to each other mutually?  Would Naghmeh receive support or shame if Saeed’s abuse came to light in your faith community?

Are you being abused by your partner?  You are worthy of safety and sanity.  Please look to Naghmeh’s courage and follow her example of seeking the help that you need.  It is not on you to protect your abusive spouse from the consequences of his sin.  It is not on you to hold a marriage together that has already been broken by abuse.

Yesterday, Naghmeh released this statement that is both gracious and honest:

Dearest Friends,

Saeed landed in Boise yesterday and had a wonderful reunion with the children. They will be spending more and more time together in the coming days. I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed. Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.

I am so thankful for the thousands of people who have responded to my pleas… and helped work toward Saeed’s release. His imprisonment was unjust, and was an extremely difficult ordeal for him and all of us who sought for his release. I worked tirelessly night and day toward that end for three-and-a-half years. Nothing has made me happier than seeing Saeed freed from his chains and in American soil. Thank you for all of you who stood with us and made this happen.

Tragically, the opposite has occurred. Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.

I long more than anyone for reconciliation for our family and to be united as a family. Since Saeed’s freedom I have wanted nothing more than to run to him and welcome him home It is something I dreamed about the last 3.5 years. But unfortunately things did not work out that way and our family has to work through reconciliation. I want our reconciliation to be strictly based on God’s Word. I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse. Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage.

In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing. I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved. I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.

I love you all. God will see us through. Thank you for your prayers and support. We need them more than ever.

Love

Naghmeh

Please pray for Naghmeh as she walks this difficult path to healing and freedom.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  As Saeed has broken free from the chains of an Iranian prison cell, may Naghmeh break free from the chains of emotional abuse and move forward into living an abundant life with Christ.

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If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need “to establish boundaries as you work toward healing,” here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
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February Link-Up, “50 Shades of Grey” Edition

Today is the long-anticipated release of 50 Shades of Grey in American theaters. As I work on this post, people are sitting in theaters being entertained by an abusive relationship in which a woman is battered, degraded, coerced and tortured under the guise of “romance.”

TBKW firmly stands against the dehumanization of God’s children, in any form. Here are some excellent articles on the topic of this cinematic blight on society:

ACTIVISTS SAY SKIP 50 SHADES AND GIVE TICKET MONEY TO A WOMEN’S SHELTER – Take Part, Liz Dwyer

The campaign was started by women from Stop Porn Culture, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and the London Abused Women Centre in Canada. It’s inspired by 50 Shades Is Abuse, an effort begun nearly three years ago by Natalie Collins, a British advocate for domestic violence victims. She and other activists worry that the flick will send women the message that being stalked, controlled, and manipulated by a significant other is sexy and romantic.

50 SHADES OF BROKEN – CBE, Jenny Rae Armstrong

There are cultural, psychological, and even physiological reasons why some women gravitate toward threatening “heroes” or violent sexual fantasies. Women’s bodies respond to perceived sexual threat by becoming physically aroused. It’s a defense mechanism to minimize injury if they are assaulted.4 Knowing this may help us understand how fiction that celebrates sexual violence could be an easy way for inexperienced teens or exhausted moms to experience a bit of a tingle. Yet, this age-old storytelling medium has played a crucial role in promoting an unhealthy view of sexuality and relationships, one that has been passed down from a dysfunctional, and often violent, patriarchal past. In a blog post titled “The Brain on Lust,” Sharon Hodde Miller, a PhD candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, explains that “whenever you learn something new, your brain changes, both physically and chemically. As that new information is stored, your brain creates new neural pathways and strengthens old ones…The more you use certain neural pathways, the stronger they become, whereas others weaken with lack of use.”5

In other words, our minds are, in the most literal sense, moldable. The more time we spend thinking about something (hours submersed in romance novels featuring domineering or abusive heroes), and the more our associations are reinforced (domineering men are sexy, and relationships with them will lead to happy endings), the stronger those neural pathways become. Just like pornography, romance novels can rewire our brains, overwriting reality with unhealthy fantasies that we increasingly associate with pleasure.

50 SHADES OF GREY IS A STUDY IN 50 SHADES OF ABUSE SAYS STUDY – Care2, Steve Williams

The researchers assert this analysis show that Fifty Shades of Grey depicts emotional abuse “in nearly every interaction” between the central couple…

The study concludes:

Despite the pervasive abuse patterns we uncovered in our analysis, popular reviews have suggested the book is liberating for women’s sexuality, providing women with an “opportunity” to openly experience erotica in an otherwise hyper-repressed culture.54 Our analysis did not set out to unravel the validity of the popular claim that the book is liberating for women’s sexuality. However, what our analysis sheds light on is the following: While Anastasia is depicted as experiencing “pleasure” during some of the couple’s sexual interactions, our analysis shows she is simultaneously confused and terrified that she will be hurt in such interactions, and she yearns for a “normal” relationship; in addition, Anastasia’s consent in the sexual activities is coerced through the use of alcohol and intimidation/pressure.

TRUTH ABOUT 50 SHADES OF GREY: MOVIE GLAMORIZES SEXUAL VIOLENCE, DOMESTIC ABUSE – End Sexual Exploitation, Dawn Hawins

50ShadesOfGrey_600x_AnastasiaSteele_21

The reality is that if you take away the glamour, “Fifty Shades” is just a sensationalized lie, telling women that they can, and should, fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and devoted, and that, somehow, this is romantic.

FIFTY ABUSIVE MOMENTS IN 50 SHADES OF GREY – The Rambling Curl

In case you weren’t convinced yet…

ABUSE IS NOT ROMANCE: ADS FROM 50 SHADES WITH ACTUAL INSANE QUOTES FROM THE BOOKS – GOOD, Adam Albright-Hanna

Ahead the highly anticipated film’s release, there’s a growing outrage aimed at 50 Shades of Grey. Last week, GOODwrote about a campaign called 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades, in which domestic abuse activists are urging people to donate $50 to women’s shelters in lieu of purchasing a movie ticket. They feel that the book’s lead romantic interest Christian Grey is often “extremely controlling, possessive, and forceful.”

Tumblr user The 6th Sirens of Pandora agrees, and to further illustrate her point she’s taken to reimagining the film’s movie poster to feature some of the most attrocious quotes from the book. Check out the images to read for yourself how insanely violent the book really is.

99 REASONS TO LEAVE YOUR ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP – Free Indeed,

  1. He hurts you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Enough said.

THE CHRISTIAN PORN CONVERSATION – God Loves Women

The Christian conversation on “porn” has (in the main) these aspects:

  1. Purity: viewing defiles the person looking.
  2. Addiction: people get addicted to viewing and so it becomes treated as a medical disorder.
  3. The redemption narrative: (mostly) men sharing their stories of moving from sin (watching “porn”) to redemption (no longer watching “porn”)
  4. Neuroscience/Intimacy: After Dr William Struthers (neuroscientific theologian) wrote a book covering the ways viewing pornographic content affects the brain and communicated the solution as greater intimacy, this is regularly talked about and he is the go to person Christians usually quote or invite to talk about “porn”.

Though all of the above can be part of the issue, I would suggest of greater significance are the following layers underpinning the spectrum of pornographies:

  1. A gendered analysis: this is about men consuming women.  Man as subject, woman as object.
  2. Industry: people make vast sums of money from selling pornographic material.  Viewers are groomed into harder and harder core porn, in order to bring financial benefit to (mainly) white men.
  3. Power: as we’ve seen in the latest power plays of The Sun around Page 3, pornographic material is more about power than it is about any sort of meaningful sexual experience.
  4. The broken lives: the (mostly) women who are groomed, used, abused and discarded by the industry.

LUNDY BANCROFT ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE
This is such an insightful and important series of videos.  I’m linking to Part 1 of 7.

LET’S CALL 50 SHADES OF GREY WHAT IT IS: PERVERTED – Charisma Magazine, J. Lee Grady

2. It glorifies violence against women. Last year a researcher from the University of Michigan did a study on the effects of Fifty Shades of Grey on women readers. It showed that women who read the books (it is actually a trilogy) were 25 percent more likely to have an abusive partner; 34 percent were more likely to have a partner who stalked them; and 65 percent were more likely to engage in binge drinking.

Just as there is a link between violent video games and violent behavior in teen boys, this study showed that women who read graphic porn novels tend to gravitate toward the types of abusive relationships depicted in books like Fifty Shades. The study also showed that these women were more likely to have eating disorders. (Interestingly, the dominant male character in Fifty Shades carefully controls his girlfriend’s eating habits.)

WHAT EVANGELICALS FAIL TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT CONSENT – Sarabeth Caplin

I would hate to see this much-needed dialogue turn into a debate about BDSM between consenting couples, which the church has no business policing, and not about the real issue at hand: what abuse looks like in real life. Given the number of people in the BDSM community who say this series misrepresents what it’s all about, it’s a dialogue worth having.

50 SHADES OF CONFUSING: SEARCHING FOR A #TRULYHUMAN PERSPECTIVE – Missio Alliance, Karina Kreminski

A reign of God perspective on sexual desire sees that we are embodied beings given a gift by God which is to be used with discernment, wonder and joy. As we engage with this gift well, we become the true humans that God had always designed us to be.+

Will we react to the issues around sexuality in our world with simple moral outrage or will we rather seek to engage with, relate to and speak into a world that is broken and needs restoration?

50 SHADES: WHY THE OUTRAGE HURTS WOMEN – Michele Phoenix

Here’s the problem: by our disproportionate outcry, we in the Christian culture are subconsciously conveying that WOMEN seeking out indecent content are so much more disgusting than MEN doing the same.

The message we send with our selective displeasure, even implicitly, is that sexual materials aimed solely at WOMEN are a greater shame than those designed for mixed or male audiences. We’re saying that audiences of female BDSM fans deserve more scorn and judgment than male audiences entering porn stores, watching (often sexually-exploited) women online or just “being boys.”

TO STOP VIOLENCE, START AT HOME – The New York Times, Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet

THE pattern is striking. Men who are eventually arrested for violent acts often began with attacks against their girlfriends and wives. In many cases, the charges of domestic violence were not taken seriously or were dismissed.

WHY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS DON’T LEAVE – TED TALKS, Leslie Morgan Steiner

Cannot recommend this video enough.  A survivor of domestic violence shares her story.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: EVERYONE IS IMPACTED AND THE CHURCH NEEDS TO BE MAKING A DIFFERENCE – TBKW, Ruth Perry

A post from October with DV statistics and resources.

DAVE BARRY LEARNS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING HUSBAND FROM READING 50 SHADES OF GREY – Time, Dave Barry

This seems so wrong to share after all the others.  This is just for fun – I was laughing hysterically all the way through!


As I am finishing up, I just saw my friend post this fantastic note on Facebook (food for thought as you encounter this book and movie in your community):

I just submitted this letter online to Hannaford via this link and encourage others who share my concerns to do the same. Thank you!:

http://www.hannaford.com/content.jsp…

I love our ___ Hannaford. The staff could not be more helpful, friendly, or efficient. Our family of 8 shops there 2 – 3 times a week, and we almost always fill 2 large carts. While checking out recently with my kids, however, I was extremely shocked and disappointed to see that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was being sold at the check-out. Not only is it a XXX book, but it depicts the most unhealthy kind of relationship. This book glorifies dating violence and abuse. As a store that promotes healthy choices, I fail to understand why it would sell such dangerous garbage. I have many friends who feel similarly and I have encouraged them to contact you about this important matter as well. Thank you for your consideration and prompt action.  Sincerely, ______

Like my wonderful friend and the authors and speakers in these links, let’s be brave and courageous Beautiful Kingdom Warriors as we speak up for the dignity and worth of every human being.


EDIT:  this one is amazing:
EVEN THE CO-STARS OF THE MOVIE “50 SHADES OF GREY” THINK IT IS AWFUL (AND MAYBE EVEN A BIT LIKE HITLER).