Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported on a study that reveals that European countries with the best record of gender equality also have the highest rate of domestic violence against women. In what is called “the Nordic paradox,” Enrique Gracia of the University of Valencia and Juan Merlo of the University of Lund found that Denmark, Sweden and Finland have higher rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women than countries like Poland, Croatia and Slovenia. Perhaps you might think that women in liberal countries are less repressed and thus more free to report violence against them, skewing the numbers upward. But as the Washington Post notes, “Gracia and Merlo consider this possibility but don’t seem to find it convincing.”
Washington Post reporter Adam Taylor was baffled by the findings: “This may come as a surprise. You might well expect better gender equality to mean less violence against women. To add to the intrigue, when you look at European countries with relatively low levels of gender equality—Italy or Greece, for example—they seem to have lower levels of IPV.”
But the findings are only a surprise if you, like Adam Taylor, ignore a crucial factor: religion. The chart of violence against women published by Gracia and Merlo is like a track of the least religious to the most religious countries in Europe. According to The New York Times, Denmark and Sweden are “among the least religious nations in the world.” Poland, which scores very low on the domestic violence scale, is a stronghold of traditional Catholic belief.
Although it’s rare to find this acknowledged in mainstream media, and despite what liberals think, traditional religious beliefs, particularly traditional Christianity, provide a level of love, support, and mutual respect that the secular state cannot replace. Orthodox religious observance in a place like Poland inculcates in men the idea that their wives and girlfriends are their partners in a sacramental journey that has been ordained by God.
It seems like every few months a study emerges that reveals that religious people are healthier, happier, live longer lives and even have better sex than secular liberals. For a few seconds the media expresses surprise, then they go right back to pushing the old narrative—religion is oppressive, people of faith are narrow-minded, etc.
As far back as 2006, Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation observed:
“A small but growing body of research has focused on the links between religious practice and decreased family violence. For example, men who attended religious services at least weekly were more than 50 percent less likely to commit an act of violence against their partners than were peers who attended only once a year or less. No matter how the data were analyzed, regular attendance at religious services had a strong and statistically significant inverse association with the incidence of domestic abuse. Similarly, after controlling for all other factors, [one researcher] found that of all groups studied (unaffiliated, active conservative Protestant, active mainline Protestant, nominal conservative Protestant, and nominal mainline Protestants), religiously active conservative Protestant men were least likely to engage in domestic violence.”
For anyone who takes religious faith seriously, it’s not a surprise that men raised in a faith tradition such as Christianity are less likely to abuse women than their secular counterparts. As for The Washington Post and other news media that are shocked—shocked!—when research shows this to be the case, maybe it’s time to abandon the easy but incorrect narrative about men of faith and instead stick to the facts.