Research highlights levels of domestic abuse in Churches.
Researchers from Coventry University and the University of Leicester asked 438 churchgoers in the Cumbria area about their experiences of domestic abuse. Shockingly the results revealed that 1 in 4 of the churchgoers experienced at least one abusive act in a current relationship – this reflects the similar prevalence of domestic abuse in the wider society. Interestingly, 71% of respondents were aware of domestic abuse in their community but only 2 in 7 churchgoers considered their church to be adequately equipped to deal with a disclosure of domestic abuse.
That is why, Restored, an International Christian Alliance, working to transform relationships and end violence against women develops resources to support churches to identify and deal with domestic abuse well. Their most recent publication A Handbook for Female Christian Survivors of Domestic Abuse is unique in that it addresses the practical, emotional and spiritual challenges a survivor experiences after they leave an abuser. This handbook is valuable for survivors, church leaders, churchgoers and friends and families of survivors. The Handbook contains 28 chapters written by 14 experts in their field covering a wide range of issues. This handbook is meant to be like a reference library, which can be dipped into as needed, over a long period of time.
The chapters are separated into themes that map the road to recovery. The first section deals with managing the practical realities after leaving an abusive partner such as finding new accommodation, security measures, legal protective orders, dealing with finances, managing the divorce process and returning to work. The second section deals with emotional healing and recovery, addressing such issues as self care, managing mental and physical ill health after leaving, looking at boundaries and healthy relationships and supporting children through trauma. And finally the last section deals with theological or spiritual issues, such as what the bible has to say about divorce after abuse, about justice and about forgiveness.
The wide variety of information in this handbook can help anyone to begin to understand what a survivor has been through and the immense challenges they need to overcome to rebuild their lives. There are so many bumps and quite a few minefields along the way. But church leaders, church communities and friends can have a very significant and positive impact in making this path easier for a survivor. They can do this through acts of kindness, concrete support and most importantly – believing the survivor – all of these are ‘events of grace’ in a survivor’s life that encourages them and supports them in their recovery.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls. It is a day to mark the progress so far and the work yet to do. We need to change the culture of silence, shame and stigma that surrounds domestic abuse and the church has a role to play in modeling supportive behaviours to survivors and the willingness to help safeguard their safety, sanity and dignity. Part of safeguarding survivors is also to know how to manage perpetrators well, as abusers are also members of our communities. Christians are called to seek justice as well as forgiveness.
This year Restored asks you to join in and take small actions that make a big difference. Invite a survivor for coffee, ask how you can help, don’t remain neutral. Order a church pack, a bible study or promote the Survivors Handbook in your church. Whatever you do, do something. We all need to play our part in ending the scourge of domestic abuse. Choose to be an event of grace in a survivor’s life.
The handbook is the latest component of Restored’s comprehensive package of resources. Together with the church pack and training courses, this handbook equips not only survivors but also those in and outside of church communities who wish to support them. Restored also has specific resources to engage men on the subject of domestic abuse with the First Man Standing initiative and the associated bible study guide. Restored’s resources work together to provide a toolkit to raise awareness on the subject, engage and educate those who wish to support survivors and manage domestic abuse in their communities better.
To order your copy of the Handbook or other resources from Restored, please email firstname.lastname@example.org The Handbook is free to survivors and a donation of £10 is asked from others.
Written by: Esther Sweetman, Survivors Coordinator, Restored