THE Church should take the lead in tackling domestic abuse and raising awareness of it, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, said last week.
Speaking at the launch of a new book published by the charity Restored, A Handbook For Female Christian Survivors of Domestic Abuse, at the House of Lords on Thursday of last week, Bishop Treweek said: “The Church should be on the front foot on these things, not on the back foot. . . We’re very good on things like foodbanks, on poverty, and homelessness, and domestic abuse is often hidden, not spoken about.
“It is behind closed doors, and we need to be saying ‘Actually, we can be on the front foot with this.’”
Restored’s co-director, Andrew Caplen, echoed this: “We very much believe that the Church, in seeking to live and follow in the example of Jesus, can and should be the lead in bringing about the change that we all so want to see.”
The handbook has contributions from 14 authors who are specialists in their respective fields, including Louisa Whitney, a specialist in family law, Professor Ally Kern, who specialises in relating theology to survivors of domestic abuse, and Betsy de Thierry, a church leader and CEO of the Trauma Recovery Centre. It is available free to survivors of domestic abuse.
Bishop Treweek said: “I think the work that Restored does is amazing. I think it’s great that they are looking at everything from a Christian perspective. I think it’s particularly important because, in churches, people will often think that domestic abuse is something that doesn’t happen with Christians: they think it’s something that happens out there.
“Often I’ve found, when you say to churches ‘Domestic abuse will be going on inside your church,’ they’ll go ‘Oh no, not here.’ Restored are really good at shining a light on it. It’s really important that we all own it and take our part in being responsible about all of this.
“The great thing about this book is that it not only supports the women who are survivors of domestic abuse, and gives them a really practical tool, it is a tool for all of us. I’d love to see every church and Christian leader have a copy of this, because it’s raising awareness, and it’s also a really practical book, and, above all, you can start from the place of saying ‘I listen to you, I believe you.’”
Mr Caplen said: “This is the next stage of the resources that we aim to produce at Restored. We have become acutely aware that Christian women who have experienced domestic abuse need to be able to assess their experiences through the lens of their faith.”
In the foreword to the book, Restored’s other co-director and co-founder, Mandy Marshall, writes: “Recovering from abuse is not an easy journey. It can be a long struggle, but we hope that this book will help you as you move on and forward in your new life. It will also be a helpful tool for friends, family, and church leaders, as it gives an insight into the realities of domestic abuse.”
Last month, the Government published its draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which included a ban to prevent those charged with domestic violence from cross-examining their victims in family courts (News, 25 January).
Speaking about the Bill, Bishop Treweek said: “Not only are the things in it going to be important for people’s protection, people’s rights, but it’s about again raising awareness. As soon as there’s a Bill and people are talking about it, and there’s media about it, and politicians and peers are having to look at that, again it’s raising awareness.
“All of us live in communities, we all live in homes, we all have friends and neighbours and connections, and the more we can be talking about this — it’s rather a lot like mental health, where now the Church is talking a lot about it, and the wider world is talking about it, but, a few years ago, we didn’t talk about mental health . . . the more it can be addressed, the more people who are suffering can actually step forward, and the more that we own the responsibility collectively.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to be joining in with God’s work of hope and transformation. We can’t all be talking about every subject, but I’m passionate about vulnerable women.
“I suppose part of that is because I look at my own life and and the privileges I’ve had, and that I have been enabled to become the person I think I’ve been created to be. I want that for all women, I want that for all people, but I want that for all women and all girls. This is highlighting the needs and hopes of vulnerable women, and that’s something I want to use my voice on.”