Dealing with Domestic Violence
8 Min Read Time

No one deserves to experience domestic violence. If you are being physically or emotionally abused by your partner, they are in the wrong, not you. It does not matter if your partner says you deserve what you get, or if they are contrite and ask for forgiveness, you do not deserve what you are going through. 

If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important you seek help. Remaining in such an environment is emotionally and physically dangerous. Depending on the severity of the abuse, you may choose to seek assistance on improving the relationship, or in more extreme situations, help is available if you need to leave a relationship for your immediate safety.

Watchtower View

Watchtower does not condone domestic violence. It speaks out against it, insisting husbands show love and kindness to their wives. Some articles have given permission for a Jehovah’s Witness wife to leave an abusive husband when her life or spirituality is under threat.

“Should the battered wife leave her husband? The Bible does not treat marital separation lightly. At the same time, it does not oblige a battered wife to stay with a man who jeopardizes her health and perhaps her very life. … Since the Bible does not forbid separation in extreme circumstances, what a woman does in this matter is a personal decision. (Galatians 6:5) No one should coax a wife to leave her husband, but neither should anyone pressure a battered woman to stay with an abusive man when her health, life, and spirituality are threatened. … Spouse abuse is a brazen violation of Bible principles. … No husband who claims to be a follower of Christ can really say that he loves his wife if he abuses her.” Awake! 2001 Nov 8 p.12

This is of little value when numerous articles praise sisters that remain with abusive husbands, enduring violence with the hope that a non-believing mate change and convert by being “won over without a word,” [1] This contradictory advice is dangerous and irresponsible, an insidious form of social pressure that results in Jehovah’s Witness victims remaining in marriages of brutal violence. The suggestion a wife that remains with a violent husband brings glory to Jehovah is the opposite of true, and does nothing of the sort. Watchtower has built a shameful reputation for ignoring the safety of Jehovah’s Witness children and wives by not reporting domestic violence and child abuse to authorities. 

In 2012, a shocking article praised women for staying with husbands despite violent abuse.

“Selma recalls a lesson she learned from the Witness who studied with her. “On one particular day,” says Selma, “I didn’t want to have a Bible study. The night before, Steve had hit me as I had tried to prove a point, and I was feeling sad and sorry for myself. After I told the sister what had happened and how I felt, she asked me to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. As I did, I began to reason, ‘Steve never does any of these loving things for me.’ But the sister made me think differently by asking, ‘How many of those acts of love do you show toward your husband?’ My answer was, ‘None, for he is so difficult to live with.’ The sister softly said, ‘Selma, who is trying to be a Christian here? You or Steve?’ Realizing that I needed to adjust my thinking, I prayed to Jehovah to help me be more loving toward Steve. Slowly, things started to change.”After 17 years, Steve accepted the truth. Watchtower 2012 Feb 1 p.29

This article received wide criticism for the danger it poses to women. Forums were filled with experiences from Jehovah’s Witnesses that had experienced such violence.

“I have horrible memories of sitting with two elders and my abusive (now ex) husband. I was told to “not keep count of the injury.” So did that mean my husband could keep on hitting me, hurting me, throwing me across the room, sometimes in front of my two little boys?”

Yet the Watchtower continues to encourage wives to endure domestic violence as a way to praise Jehovah. Wives that remain despite extreme abuse are praised as “loyal Christians.” 

“He might be extremely physically abusive, even to the point that she feels that her health or life is in danger. He might refuse to support her and the family or severely endanger her spirituality. … some Christians have personally decided that … a separation is necessary. But other Christians in comparably difficult situations have not; they have endured and tried to work on improving matters. … Many loyal Christians have remained with an unbelieving mate under very trying circumstances.” Watchtower 2018 Dec p.14

This is shockingly dangerous advice, and creates social pressure for Jehovah’s Witnesses to remain as victims of severe abuse and violence.

Making matters harder, Watchtower doctrine dictates that Domestic Violence is not a legitimate reason to break the “marriage bond.” Only adultery frees a person from a marriage. Hence, leaving a violent partner relegates the victim to single life, unless they can prove the partner has committed an act of infidelity. 

Even when writing against domestic violence, Watchtower diminishes the value of such information by tying it in with the “headship arrangement.” For example, the January 2008 Awake! covered the topic “Violence Against Women, What is the Bible’s View?” Whilst the main articles spoke out against domestic violence, the same issue included the article “Headship in Marriage,” explaining why women must be submissive to their husbands. The article points to Old Testament character Abraham as an example of a loving husband considering his wife when making decisions. Abraham had a child with his mistress despite pleads from his wife Sarah, allowing them to live with him until the child was a grown man. The concept that a man is the head of his wife underpins mistreatment of women, and is used by abusive men as justification for dominance and violence. 

If you have discussed your experience of domestic violence with the elders in your congregation, they may have told you to endure it, and consider how you should change so as not to incite your husband. This is irresponsible and unrealistic. A violent person can become violent without any provocation. Do not be intimidated by elders from seeking professional help, or leaving your spouse if you feel in danger. 

Verbal and Emotional Abuse

Abuse is not just physical violence, but includes verbal and emotional abuse. This can be as dangerous as physical abuse, leading to feeling trapped, worthlessness, depressed and suicidal. Being constantly sworn at and belittled is a form of control, as it removes self esteem, and one’s ability to be confident in making decisions. If you are experiencing such abuse, it is important to seek help to fix the relationship, or remove yourself from it. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline lists all the following as abuse.

“Does your partner ever….

  • Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.” ( Dec 16 2019)

Males Victims of Domestic Violence

Men can also be victims of domestic violence. Due to cultural norms, male victims of violence often feel ashamed to seek help, for fear of being labelled weak. If you are a man that is experiencing violence from either a male or female partner, you will not be judged if you seek assistance from professional channels.  

Amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses

You may feel that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not experience domestic violence, and if you do, then it is your fault. This is far from the truth. Whilst the Watchtower articles above imply abusers are non-believers, Jehovah’s Witness partners can also be abusive. I know this, as my father used to deal regularly with such issues when he was a Circuit Overseer. 

As a high control religion, Watchtower exhibits many traits of an abusive partner

  • It teaches that you are a sinner, demanding high standards and levels of activity that keep you in a constant state of guilt. 
  • It controls what you do with strict rules on celebrations, attire, education and entertainment
  • It stops you associating with worldly people and makes you shun disfellowshipped family and friends
  • It threatens to disfellowship and shun you if you question its leadership and rules
  • It threatens death at Armageddon if you stop following its rules

Jehovah’s Witnesses are subjected to a controlling and emotionally abusive belief system. An abusive partner can use this as weaponry to justify their insults and control as something you deserve, and Watchtower has primed you to believe and accept such treatment.     

Some Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse the headship arrangement as justification for physical abuse. It is unacceptable for a person to be assaulted as a form of control, and in many countries, assault is illegal. It is equally wrong to hit a child or partner as punishment, even if some people try to minimise such assault by calling it discipline. 

If you are experiencing domestic violence you need to seek the support of others. The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the more damage you will suffer to your own self esteem and harder it will be to reach out for assistance. A controlling partner will eventually convince you that you are deserving of abuse, or intimidate you into being too scared to leave. It is essential that you waste no time in finding what help is available locally.

Domestic Violence Hotlines

Australia lists the following numbers

1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 – 24 hour national toll-free sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian

Lifeline – 13 11 14 – Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State.

Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978 – 24/7 telephone for men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties. 


[1] (Watchtower has regularly printed such experiences over the decades. See w58 7/1 p.400; w69 12/15 p.740; g70 12/8 p.10; g74 1/8 p.11; w76 5/15 pp.292-293; w82 7/15 p.7; w86 8/1 p.21; w90 8/15 p.21; yb90 p.64; yb93 pp.179-180; w94 4/15 pp.27-29; yb94 p.145; w96 5/1 pp.22-23; g97 4/22 p.31; w99 1/1 p.3; yb99 p.60; w04 8/15 p.10; w07 4/15 p.6.)