Warning: Frozen Spoilers!
Ok, sale ok I know you’re probably sick of me talking about Frozen but I really think this movie is special in many ways. Not only is it really funny and filled with awesome music, adiposity but I think it teaches us a lot of valuable lessons, one of which is really helpful in understanding abuse and domestic violence. Towards the end of the movie, we experience the biggest plot twist of all time! Well maybe not that extreme but I’m telling you, I didn’t see it coming. (My roommate, however, saw all of 5 seconds of “Love is an Open Door” and guessed that Hans turns out bad. What the heck?).
But anyway…I’ve talked with people who have seen the movie and they felt that the whole Hans-turning-evil-thing wasn’t realistic because he was so genuine throughout the whole movie until the very end. At first I agreed–it just really came out of nowhere–but then I realized that’s exactly the point!
Often times people have a really hard time believing women who say they’re in an abusive relationship or kids who say that someone is abusing them because the abuser is just so nice. The brilliance of Frozen is that the abusive, manipulative, murderous, power-hungry man is also handsome, a great singer, and outwardly very kind and polite. And I would suggest that, in reality, abusers are not creepy, unwashed men who are violent and rude in all areas of their lives–they’re often very normal people and even fun to be around. And so when our friend, daughter, or sister comes to us and tells us that they are in an abusive relationship (which is so hard and painful for a victim of abuse to actually do), all too often the response is confusion and disbelief. That’s another thing I love about Olaf–Anna tells him that Hans isn’t who she thought he was and Olaf accepts what she says and believes her. He doesn’t ask her what she did wrong or say that it’s probably her fault or assume that she’s just being overdramatic.
Here’s the thing–there are usually hints that someone is abusive. The first time someone pointed out that Hans reveals the entire plot of Frozen the first line he sings (see picture above) I was floored! It’s often really hard for victims of abuse and those looking in on the relationships to identity these warning signs because they’re often subtle–maybe he’s just a little too overprotective or gets jealous easily or he jumps into the relationships a little too enthusiastically and proposes after knowing you for 3 hours (hem hem Hans)…Or maybe people just don’t want to recognize the warning signs–you don’t want to believe that your trusted and loved husband or relative could possibly have abused your child or that the nice man who volunteers at all the youth group events could actually be emotionally and verbally abusing his kids at home.
So what do we do?
I think the first thing is to start talking about the reality of abuse and domestic violence. Don’t live your life pretending as if these things no longer happen or couldn’t possibly happen to you or people around you. I’m very confident that, whether you know it or not, you have a friend or family member who has been abused in some way.
The second thing we need to do is listen. Listen to other people’s stories and learn from them. If you’ve never been abused there’s really no way for you to understand what it’s like. And even if you have, your story is not identical to those around you. To give someone who is suffering or who has experienced tremendous pain the gift of listening is a really profound and important thing. Listening means not interrupting, not judging their experience, and learning from them as much as you can.
And Church, we need to step it up. We need to stop ignoring victims of abuse and domestic violence. We need to stop telling them that its their fault or that Jesus requires that they stay in their abusive relationship. We need to proactively be a refuge for victims of abuse, lifting them up, protecting them, and loving them in a way that transforms their identity from victim to daughter or son of God.