It may be April Fool’s Day but this week’s blog is no joke. Sorry, I guess that’s as funny as I could manage.
Back in February, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church met in Fort Worth, Texas. During their meeting, they adopted a resolution that hits a personal nerve for me: Resolution AN 006 Condemnation of Domestic Violence. While not a victim myself, I did serve on the board of directors of our local women’s shelter for five years and have seen first-hand the tragedy of this social crisis. As with so many other areas of injustice and oppression, one of the big hurdles in combating this problem is the stigma associated with being a victim. And, for the victims, breaking the cycle of abuse and coming out of the silence is risky. I am glad that our church is willing to take a stand and speak out against this often hidden form of violence.
Here’s the text of the resolution:
AN 006 CONDEMNATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The following is a true copy of a Resolution adopted by the Executive Council at its meeting from February 26 – 28, 2016, at which a quorum was present and voting.
Resolved, That the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, from February 26-28, 2016, declare its condemnation of all manifestations and instances of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity of the victim, and whether the incidents are in the victim’s home, work place, on the streets, in war and war-like conflicts, or anywhere else; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church declare its commitment to support legislative, judicial, and other forms of government and official actions that protect the rights of victims and survivors of these violent acts, including, but not limited to:
- increased funding for victims for support services, for trauma informed care, for prevention, and for education on safe relationships geared toward teens;
- increased training for all professionals connected to the legal system, to assist them in understanding the needs and safety concerns of victims, and the dynamics of domestic and partner violence;
- effective and efficient processes for obtaining victim protective orders (VPO) for all victims, including funding and procedures for the appointment of attorneys to represent victims seeking protective orders;
- consistent and firm implementation of legal penalties and enforcement of protective orders against the perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking in order to hold perpetrators accountable and keep victims safe;
- prevention programs directed at perpetrators and prevention programs that educate victims and potential victims of their legal rights;
- changes in the way that family courts handle cases of domestic violence so that domestic violence issues are not shunted to a separate court and ignored in divorce and custody cases;
- increased training for police officers, to help them respond safely and effectively to the needs of survivors, and connect survivors to supportive resources;
- enabling off-site victim testimony in trials related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking so that victims are not traumatized by the presence of the perpetrator in the courtroom;
- helping victims become financially independent in instances where their dependence on their domestic partners or spouses force them to remain in dangerous homes;
- speedy processing and protection from destruction of rape kits so that the rights of victims of sexual violence are protected until trial; and be it further
Resolved, That the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church urge all Episcopalians to strive for justice and healing for victims of any kind of violence through listening, believing, prayer, education, advocacy, trauma informed pastoral care, and action.
Here’s some background you should have:
- Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
- On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, approximately 15 calls every minute.
- Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
- The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%
- 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.
- 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
Domestic Violence in Michigan
- In a single day in 2014, Michigan domestic violence programs provided services to 2,492 victims/survivors.
- In 2009, 103,331 incidents of domestic violence were reported to Michigan police. Many others went unreported.
- Over half of domestic violence homicides in Michigan are committed with guns.
- An estimated 18.2% of Michigan women will experience stalking in their lifetimes.
These statistics are sobering. Look at your friends or the members of your congregation. It’s very likely that at least 1 out of every 4 women there have been victims, are currently victims or are in a family where domestic violence is happening. I look at the lovely young women in my dorm and know that some of them will experience this tragedy – if they haven’t already. It’s heartbreaking.
Domestic violence isn’t just about physical beatings. It is also about power and control – and that can be just as serious. Take a look at the chart below. All of these situations represent abusive relationships.
In the past, our experience of domestic violence was primarily known in heterosexual relationships. Now, with public awareness of same-gender couples, domestic violence is reported in these relationships, as well, and is equally serious and tragic. There are differences in the way domestic violence can be manifest in LGBT couples. Check out this resource – http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/lgbt-abuse/
So what can we do? First, become educated. Here is the contact information for Michigan’s coalition office:
Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Here is a great resource specifically for Michigan from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – http://www.ncadv.org/files/Michigan.pdf
Their website has a lot of helpful information and resources – http://www.ncadv.org/
There’s also the National Domestic Violence Hotline website – http://www.thehotline.org/
We must get involved. Find your local shelter and see how you can help. I know our shelter has a list of things they need periodically: food, bedding, person hygiene items, small repairs on their building and grounds, safe transportation and volunteers to man the hot-line and to serve as receptionists. There are fund-raising opportunities. Our shelter does an annual Duck Derby in May releasing 2000 rubber ducks into the St Joe River to see whose duck comes in for the prizes donated by local businesses. But these shelters also need voices to spread the news at city council meetings and educational forums. Let your voice be heard!
If you know someone who is a victim of abuse, here are some suggestions –
HOW TO SUPPORT A LOVED ONE: DO’S AND DON’TS
- Approach the other person in a manner that allows for safety and confidentiality.
- Express concern (i.e., “I’m concerned someone is hurting you and am concerned for your safety.”)
- Listen and believe what they are sharing with you.
- Communicate that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.
- Help to normalize any feelings they may be having.
- Respect the survivor’s choices.
- Help them to find support systems and refer them to a local shelter for free services.
- Continue to educate yourself on the dynamics of domestic violence.
- Do not judge a survivor’s choices; do not judge or criticize their abuser or assume you understand everything they are coping with.
- Do not pressure a survivor to leave the abusive relationship. It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to “just leave.” It is ok to communicate to the survivor that help is out there, that you care about them/their children.
- Be aware that there are many reasons a survivor stays and do not judge them for this. It is possible their abuser has threatened to hurt them or their children if they try to leave. The abuser may control all the finances. They may have isolated the victim from friends and family. The abuser may have promised to change, and the victim may still love him/her.
(from Domestic Harmony, Hillsdale’s shelter – http://www.domesticharmony.org/home.html)
When we respond to the injustice of domestic violence and reach out to meet the needs of its victims, we are demonstrating our commitment to respect the dignity of every human being from our Baptismal Covenant and to challenge violence of every kind from the 5 Marks of Mission.
Let us pray –
God our redeemer and sustainer, we pray for the survivors of violence, abuse and neglect. Be with them in confusion and pain. Give your power to the powerless, your fullness to the empty of spirit. Heal their wounds, free them from fear and restore them to true health. Strengthen them to face the future with faith in you. We ask this through Jesus your Son, who was himself a victim of abuse and yet in his resurrection, triumphed over the oppression.
Likewise, God of justice, judge of all the earth, we bring before you those who abuse and mistreat others. Turn the hearts of the exploiters from the way of evil. Open their eyes to the truth of their conduct and fill them with hatred for the damage they do. And so by your Spirit bring them to true repentance and amendment of their lives.
And now, may your Spirit draw us together, both in our church family, and in the community. May we face our mistakes with complete honesty but preserve us from unhelpful speculation and gossip. Help us reach out, care for the hurting, and support each other. Strengthen us with the gospel of your grace, for Jesus’ Christ’s sake. Amen.
(adapted from The Briefing http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2012/11/prayers-for-those-suffering-abuse/)
~ The Rev Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee