Getting the faith based community talking about domestic abuse

If we’re going to slow the spread of abuse we must start getting the faith based community talking about domestic violence. Advocates across the world know this but we also know that bringing clergy and church workers to the table is easier said than done.

Since the mid-1990s I’ve worked with anti domestic violence and sexual assault programs in two states. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak in several states and in Washington, D.C.

Over the years there has been a shift in the willingness to get the faith based community talking about domestic abuse. At the same time, there has been an increased willingness on the part of churches and faith based organizations to get involved in the fight to end abuse.

The collaboration isn’t perfect yet but it’s much improved. In order to become survivors, victims need and deserve both spiritual support and secular support. Over the next few weeks we’re going to look at ways this gap can be bridged. Along the way, I’ll also give some concrete ideas that you can take back and put into use in your local community.

Before we get started let me say that this series is being written with advocates and local sexual assault and domestic violence programs in mind. This has been the background of my work for almost 20 years. Police based agencies and coalitions are welcome to use these practices too.

I was able to get my home church involved with a women’s homeless shelter in the early 1990s. This was a big deal then and the ladies of both places enjoyed the experience. After that experience (and after being sexually assaulted later) my calling expanded. Once again, I was able to help bridge the gap.

In 2002, the organization that I work with set up a display at the conference of a large mainstream denomination. Reactions were mixed. I came away with the feeling that getting the faith based community to talk about domestic abuse would be impossible.

Now, it is 2010. I’ve helped plan and have led in a workshop that was attended by hundreds of clergy. My family jokes that I’m always traveling. I’ve worked domestic violence awareness display tables, spoken and raised awareness in churches across several states.

No matter which side you are on there is one important thing to remember about getting faith based programs to talk about ending domestic abuse. That is, to remember that it can be done.

We’ll be discussing more about bridging the gap. First, let me pause to say that it is imperative that faith based organizations read this link about the cycle of domestic violence.