CHURCHES are being urged to wake up to the reality of domestic violence within their congregations.
In the UK, 1.4 million women (8.5 per cent of the population) experience some form of domestic abuse each year; and surveys suggest that churchgoers are not immune.The charity Restored, which campaigns to end violence against women, has released a report that seeks to inform churches about the extent of the problem.
A survey in 2013 by Restored and the magazine Christianity found that 16 per cent of respondents had suffered physical violence from a husband or partner. In a survey by the Evangelical Alliance in 2010, ten per cent of women had experienced domestic abuse, and seven per cent of men had physically attacked their wives or partners.
“Churches are a natural place for many people to turn to in times of crisis. We can be either part of the problem, or part of the solution,” the charity’s report declares.
Restored says that it wants to empower churches to identify and help women who may be in an abusive relationship. Among the signs to look for are: when a woman is never seen alone, without her partner; is reluctant to speak; is disparaged by her partner; has unexplained injuries; has no access to her own money.
Sometimes, victims of domestic abuse have turned to their church for help in vain. One victim told Restored that, when her church found out about her abusive partner, she was asked to leave the worship team, while he was allowed to remain as treasurer.
One way in which churches can support victims of domestic abuse is to emphasise in sermons and marriage-preparation courses that abuse has no place in Christian marriage and relationships, Restored suggests. They can also display a public charter or statement against domestic abuse, with phone numbers and websites where victims can find information and support.
Attention is also drawn to 25 November, the International Day of Action on Violence against Women. The report includes materials to help Christians to counter arguments by abusive husbands who use verses from the Bible to excuse their actions.