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Qatar World Cup: ‘Don’t let violence come home’

25 November 2022

Bishop joins calls to end football-linked domestic abuse


A still from a video created by the diocese of Rochester

A still from a video created by the diocese of Rochester

AS ENGLAND prepares for its second World Cup match this evening, against the United States, the Church has joined an international call to kick out the domestic abuse often linked to big sporting events.

The campaign launches today, on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (also known as White Ribbon Day), and includes a video message from the Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, in which he acknowledges that football arouses real passions.

“Winning gives us a nice serotonin boost; losing takes it away,” he says. “That’s why there are so many mood swings in fans; but mood swings can be dangerous, especially when they are combined with drink. It’s a well-known fact that domestic abuse spikes after big football games finish, especially after derby games or when England play.”

But, he says, people are not defined by our team’s losses. “Our self-esteem does not depend on three points by the end of Saturday, or the lottery of penalties. We are at our best when we regulate our emotions, and we are defined instead by how we care for those we live with. So let’s enjoy the game, but, if football isn’t coming home, let’s make the promise that violence won’t come home either.”

His message is backed by White Ribbon UK, the charity engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls.

White Ribbon Day opens 16 days of activities, and comes as new figures from diocesan safeguarding advisers show that reports of domestic abuse increased by 37 per cent from 2019 to 2021.

YouTubeThe Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, delivers a video message in which he acknowledges that football arouses real passions

A range of videos and resources is being published on the Church of England website during the campaign, and they include the voice of survivors of domestic abuse, and individuals and organisations that support those experiencing domestic abuse.

In an accompanying video, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, calls on the Church to recognise and act on domestic abuse, and not to regard it as a taboo subject that it is reluctant to talk about. She said: “I urge as many people as possible in our churches to use these 16 days to undertake the Church of England training.”

Bishop Treweek was one of several bishops who contributed to the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act last year. The Act recognises children as victims of domestic abuse, as a result of seeing, hearing, or experiencing it for the first time. She said: “The cost-of-living crisis is rapidly becoming a national emergency for domestic abuse victims who cannot afford to leave perpetrators. These 16 days provide a real focus for us all to shine a light in places of darkness and shadow.”

She said that there was still “a long way to go” from the General Synod motion in 2014, which urged parishes to be actively involved in eliminating gender-based violence. “We must acknowledge that within our churches we have victims, survivors, and perpetrators of domestic abuse”.

Mothers’ Union campaign: The “No More 1 in 3” campaign, to raise awareness of the fact that one in three women around the world will suffer some form of abuse in their lifetime, has been re-launched by the Mothers’ Union as part of the global initiative (News, 3 December 2021).

Mothers’ Union members in the UK work to support women suffering domestic abuse by providing essential items for refuges, running workshops on gender-based issues in schools and prisons, and also supporting the families of survivors through its “Away From It All” holidays.

Phillis, now a member, found herself in an abusive relationship, to the point where she was scared for her life and the lives of her young children. She found help from her church and the charity.

“Joining my local church and Mothers’ Union group and national domestic abuse planning group was a key catalyst for me,” she said at the launch of the “No More 1 in 3” campaign this week. “It gave me the confidence I needed to start to hope for a better future. That was when I realised that I could use the horrific experience I had been through to support others going through similar situations.”

Phillis is appealing for people to join the Mothers’ Union Global Day and support the campaign. On Saturday Mothers’ Union members across the world will hold a one minute’s silence at 1.03pm in their homes, with local groups or in churches and cathedrals.

She said: “Please join us in our fight against all forms of violence by holding a minute’s silence and raising awareness of and confronting this vital issue so that no one has to be a victim of domestic abuse.”


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