A DEBATE on gender-based violence, on a motion produced by the
Mission and Public Affairs Council, was held early in the Synod's
agenda on Monday afternoon.
Before the debate, the Synod heard a presentation from Mandy
Marshall, who co-chairs the Restored Relationships organisation,
who told the story of Charlotte, a young Christian who had been
abused by her boyfriend, Craig.
"What started off as seemingly romantic gestures, such as the
need to always be close to Charlotte, gradually escalated into
manipulative and controlling behaviour, like limiting the amount of
communications she was allowed to have with her family and
This "got worse until he was both emotionally and physically
abusing her. Over time, he hit her over the back of the head, then
profusely apologised, and promised it would never happen again.
But, of course, it did. In fact, the physical abuse, including
rape, became so frequent and extreme that when Charlotte finally
summoned up the courage and will to leave Craig, she had to undergo
five months of intense physiotherapy simply to get her limbs
working properly again."
Charlotte's case was "by no means rare", but she struggled to
find support from her church. "I just felt that it was too much to
try to talk about the abuse," Ms Marshall reported Charlotte as
saying, "as I really felt that nobody would understand . . . or
would think that I was exaggerating."
The Synod then heard a number of statistics, including a 2007 UN
report that said that "many women between the ages of 15-44 are
more likely to be maimed or die due to male violence than through
war, cancer, malaria or traffic combined."
"The culture of silent complicity needs to be broken," Ms
Marshall said. "It takes all of us playing our part. Perhaps we
even need to redefine courage: courage is challenging your
colleague, your friend, your family, when perhaps it would be
easier for us to stay silent."
Opening the debate proper, the chairman of the Mission and
Public Affairs Council, Philip Fletcher, said
that, as a man, he was uneasy proposing a motion on gender-based
violence, "which we know is predominantly perpetuated by men on
He continued: "However, it is part of a trend that this motion
seeks to encapsulate - the public involvement in and advocacy for
an end to gender-based violence by men and boys." It was, he said,
"an issue for the whole of humanity".
Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham) said that she had
experienced gender-based violence just once, when she was a
student. She described it as "devastating" and said: "I quake with
terror when I think about those who live with it on a daily
She said that the Church had to "take very seriously" how its
theology and tradition had been used to support gender-based
violence, including the "terrible tales of terror" in Judges 19,
Ezekiel 16, and the Revelation references to the Whore of
"We need very clearly to sit down alongside the stories where
God intervenes with gender-based violence," she said, mentioning
Hagar in the desert and the woman taken in adultery. "There is much
to celebrate as well as much to grieve in our theology."
The Revd Mark Ireland (Lichfield) told the
story of his parishioner, Georgia Williams, "a bright and bubbly
17-year-old teenager who was killed by a fellow teenager". She had
"unwittingly become the object of his desire". There was no doubt
in Mr Ireland's mind that the killer's "addiction to severe
sadistic pornography" was key to the murder. "I'm convinced that we
as a national Church need to challenge the Government and internet
companies to do much more" to tackle the availability of
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) spoke to her proposed
amendment that would replace references to"gender-based violence"
with "sexual and domestic violence". She said that the "whole Synod
will be united in deploring and being saddened by the stories we've
heard", but emphasised that it was important not to ignore male
victims. "One in six men are victims of domestic violence. That
could be some of the men in this room."
Kathy Playle (Chelmsford) spoke to her proposed
amendment, which sought to change the words "a defilement" to "an
abuse and violation", saying that victims were not defiled by the
actions of their attackers. "Can we be clear? The perpetrator may
be violent and abusive, but they defile themselves. . . We are not
defiled. We are violated."
Peter Hart (Chester) was a member of a
congregation in an urban priority area, but, until listening to a
speaker from the group Chester Without Abuse, he had "no idea of
the scale of gender-based violence". "Violence behind closed doors
is easily hidden."
Canon Ruth Crossley (Carlisle) said that her
"only reservation is that the motion doesn't go far enough". "All
those who work in this area need prayer, support, and above all,
money to enable this work to go on."
She chairs the trustees of a charity, Springfield, "providing
support and accommodation for women trying to get their life back
after abuse". "The women who come to us have lost everything."
Mr Fletcherinvited the Synod to resist Miss Dailey's amendment,
saying that the term "gender-based violence" was "an
internationally accepted one for a range of behaviours that include
domestic and, sexual violence but goes beyond that, including
female genital mutilation." It "is a term used throughout the
Peter Collard (Derby) supported the amendment.
It was "about what we do in our parishes. We're not talking about
the global situation. The sort of people who are going to be
reading this, the sort of people we want to influence it, will
bypass it. Gender-based violence doesn't mean anything."
But Canon Rosie Harper (Oxford) urged the Synod
to resist the amendment: "We can't isolate what is going on in this
country from what is going on around the world." She said three
reasons were often given to justify gender-based violence: that
"God told us to do it;" that "It's our culture - keep your nose
out;" and that "men and women are different."
Quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, she said that the Synod could not
sit on the fence: "Not to speak is to speak; not to act is to
The vice-chair of the House of Laity, Tim Hind
(Bath & Wells), quoted a music-hall song about "two lovely
black eyes", which were "just for telling a man he's wrong". He
said that "men need to stand up to the fact that they are major
perpetrators." It was important to keep in the motion words that
called on men and boys to speak out.
Canon Kathryn Fitzsimons (Ripon & Leeds)
spoke about a young man who had sought her advice, having met a
woman whom he wanted to marry. As a child, he had seen his mother
being the victim of violence in the home. "He was worried that he
was like his dad." How could he be sure that he wouldn't hit the
woman, he asked.
John Barber (Manchester) supported the
amendment. "Domestic Violence is something that women suffer a
great deal more than men do, but we are now beginning to
acknowledge that men suffer too. We don't need to wait another 100
years to acknowledge this and do something about it."
The Synod rejected Miss Dailey's amendments.
Mrs Playle's amendment was accepted without debate, after Mr
Fletcher said that the original wording was "nothing to do with the
defilement of the victim; it was a defilement of the image of God."
But he could see how it might be misread, and so endorsed the
When debate resumed on the amended motion, Christina
Rees (St Albans) said that there was more that churches
could do. She said that the "DV-charger" - ten points contained in
the report to the Synod - should be photocopied, distributed, and
displayed in churches; that 25 November, White Ribbon Day, should
be designated as a day of action by churches; and that prevention
training should be taught in schools.
The Archdeacon of Hackney, the Ven. Rachel
Treweek (London), was "immensely grateful" that the Synod had taken
the time to "name and look at gender-based violence". She asked
that the Synod should "spend time together looking at what it means
to be human", which was "so important to so much" of what the Synod
The Synod carried the motion:
That this Synod, believing that all people are made in the
image of God and that all forms of violence based on gender
represent an abuse and violation of that image:
(a) affirm work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries,
parishes and Church of England schools in raising awareness and
caring for survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse
(b) support measures to bring perpetrators to account and
provide support for changed lifestyles;
(c) encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based
(d) commend the Anglican Consultative Council Resolution
15:7 on preventing and eliminating gender-based violence to
dioceses, deaneries and parishes and urge them to seek practical
approaches to its implementation.
The Business Committee had "exceptionally" scheduled a period of
worship, a service of lament, to follow the debate to enable
members to "pray for all those affected by gender-based