Twenty people per minute--one every three seconds?
That's how many people in the United States are victims of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) "National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. The problem affects all races, genders, and income levels, but women experience a higher prevalence (1 in 2 lifetime possibility as opposed to 1 in 5 for men), as do lower-income individuals (9.7% chance for women whose household income is less than $25,000, compared to 2.8% in households with incomes above $75,000).
Sadly, the statistics are no different in the church. About 25% of Christian homes witness abuse of some kind (Christian Headlines, "Domestic Violence within the Church: The Ugly Truth"). And many pastors feel woefully underequipped to address the problem or counsel troubled parishioners. In "The Church and Its Response to Domestic and Sexual Violence," Christianity Today reports that 81% of pastors say they would take action to help reduce such violence "if they had the training and resources to do so."
The U.S. Missions Research & Resource Center hopes that the following information helps to equip pastors and other Christians to make a difference in their communities by 1) becoming more aware of the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault; 2) creating opportunities for congregations to support and reach out to those in need; and 3) becoming familiar with available community resources in order to point suffering church members to appropriate help.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
The U.S. government's official site for information and assistance about sexual assault, https://notalone.gov/, provides recent news and policy developments, data, FAQs for students and schools, and more.
Infographic from the CDC's violence prevention division - "Facts Everyone Should Know about Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, & Stalking".
Additional resources from the CDC - Find hotlines for getting help, geographically or culturally specific support organizations, statistics, and more.
Report from the National Institute of Justice (U.S. Department of Justice) - "Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men"
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Family Options Study, 80% of women and children experiencing homelessness have experienced domestic violence. View the report here.
FOCUS Ministries: Faith-Based Domestic Violence Help - Training for churches and others wishing to help with this issue, resources for awareness, pastor's guide, and more.
Violence Among Us: Ministry to Families in Crisis - Written by the founders of FOCUS Ministries, this compact but comprehensive guide offers practical help in identifying abusive situations, tips for counseling victims and getting them the help they need, and ministry models for working with both victims and perpetrators.
The Heart of Domestic Abuse: Gospel Solutions for Men Who Use Control and Violence in the Home - Practical and honest, this book, written by a man for use in dealing with men, equips church leaders to deal with the heart issues behind violence and emotional abuse.
When the abuser is also the pastor, and knows he needs help, where can he get it? How can the victim get help? Will the church elders believe her? These questions and more can be explored through the Clergy Recovery Network, a mentoring resource for ministry families who are themselves experiencing crisis.
Abuser intervention/education from Emerge - "Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence" - customizable training programs, informative FAQ's, links to additional resources.
From Vital Magazine - "Addressing Violence as the Church" - How will you respond to survivors of violence in your church? Do you know where to refer a victim for help?
From the Enrichment Journal archives, "What Pastors Can Do To Help Victims of Domestic Violence in the Church" gives practical, scripturally sound advice for responding to the abused and the abuser as members of your congregation.
"When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women" - Excellent overview of the issues contributing to domestic violence, including the misuse of scripture, and how pastors can develop an appropriate plan for responding to parishioners who need help. Written from the Catholic viewpoint, this piece is easily adaptable to any denominational context.
Advocacy Empowerment Wheel - Distributed by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, this tool is based on the assumption that a woman seeking help needs understanding, information, support, and the resources to make changes. Provides a basic guideline that can be adapted to the church setting. Also see the Power and Control Wheel, a helpful visual for understanding the behavior patterns used by an abuser to gain and maintain control over a victim.
Do you, or does someone in your congregation, own a business? Inspired by Meathead Movers, a moving company that hires student athletes to provide quality moving services in California and offers free service to victims of domestic violence, companies all over the U.S. are pledging to provide free or discounted services to assist victims with leaving a dangerous situation, establishing financial security, child care, and much more. Check out the list here.
- Family violence
Become familiar with the terminology and procedures for obtaining an order of protection in your state. Read an overview of the various possible provisions at FindLaw.com. (Note: this site offers an attorney search by location. No particular attorney is being endorsed.)
Do you know someone who might need a shelter quickly, or would you just like to be prepared or maybe volunteer? Use the quick ZIP code search tool at https://www.domesticshelters.org/.
Family Justice Center Alliance - Learn more about multi-agency partnerships designed to improve efficiency in providing services to victims and minimize trauma.
Family violence presents extra personal and procedural challenges for military families. Learn about available resources through Military One Source.
Witnessing domestic violence or being used as a pawn by an abusive parent can have serious negative effects on a child's ability to succeed in school. This research report from the Education Law Center, "Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-Informed Classrooms & Transformational Schools", is a comprehensive discussion of the effects of trauma on a child's ability to learn, including behaviors that may be misinterpreted as defiance or lack of ability unless educators are trained to recognize them, and suggestions for creating and implementing trauma-informed practices.
Purple Purse - From the Allstate Foundation, this site offers an interactive tool, "Why Don't You Just Leave," providing a hands-on series of choices to highlight the many dynamics of abusive situations, including financial concerns. (Note: No particular financial or insurance product is being endorsed. This site is recommended because of its excellent contribution to understanding the realities of financial abuse.)
Life Skills International - Founded by Dr. Paul Hegstrom, a former abuser who has found healing and devoted his life and career to researching the "why" of violence. Counseling opportunities and resources for a variety of relationship skills.
Many victims hesitate to leave an abusive situation because they do not want to leave a beloved pet behind, either because the animal provides important comfort to the victim and children or from fear that the abuser will harm the pet. Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T) provides resources to help shelters implement pet care into their programs. Download their "Start-Up" guide for ideas and photos.
Many states offer an address confidentiality program to protect victims who seek shelter. Visit your state's .gov website and search "secretary of state" or "attorney general" for more information. These websites may also be helpful in understanding the various types of orders of protection.
ETR Associates works to find science-based solutions for health-related issues, including violence. They offer a number of informative publications to increase awareness of domestic violence, reduce stigma in asking for help, and address behaviors such as alcohol use that can increase the risk of violence.
The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence - "Training . . . Consulting . . . Advocacy"
Camp HOPE America - research-based camp program to address the effects of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) on trauma-exposed youth. Find out more or get training to develop a camp experience for youth in your area.
Watch this episode of Inside Family Court to hear a judge explain the civil and criminal factors involved in domestic violence and the procedures for bringing a case to trial. Includes a mock court case.
- Campus and dating violence
Green Dot - This campus action program works to identify behaviors that express intolerance of violence and decrease its likelihood. Find out how to get involved or start a movement on your campus.
We End Violence - Educational campaigns, lectures, training, and consulting to assist with a community-based or campus-based campaign to prevent violence.
- Abuse survivors and incarceration
Three-quarters of women in prison are survivors of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, with an even higher number being survivors of child abuse. Read about efforts to bring justice and restoration to these women rather than continuing to punish them, here. Also check out the stage play, "Life without Parole," from the Vanguard University Global Center for Women and Justice, which follows the stories of several women through the tragedy of killing their abusive partners.
- Recent articles and posts
From Christianity Today - "'But He Never Hit Me': A Christian Primer on Emotional Abuse" - Thought-provoking call to action for the church, pointing out that "emotional abuse is a habitual sin that seldom goes away on its own. The church needs to treat it accordingly."
From the CRC Network's Safe Church - Recent blog posts tackle this difficult topic in "When Is It OK to Leave?", "The Courage to Leave," and "Emotional Abuse: The Crushing of the Human Spirit."
"4 Common Ways Churches Fail Abuse Victims (and What to Do Instead)" - Although primarily focusing on abuse by spiritual leaders, the ideas in this blog post are helpful for any church that wants to face unfortunate situations with grace and justice.