Resources for Faith Communities

Resources for Faith Communities

Domestic abuse education and awareness among faith leaders and in faith communities is essential to ending this epidemic. Below are a few resources for faith leaders and faith communities.

If you are interested in a more comprehensive domestic abuse training for your faith community, please contact us. Safe Haven has a unique area of expertise in faith and domestic abuse issues – we are happy to work with your group free of charge.

Please note: several of following resources are excerpted from “The Healing Path,” A Guide for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, published by the Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviors that may include physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, threats, stalking, and/or intimidation. These behaviors are used by one person in an intimate relationship to control the other. The partners may be married or engaged, heterosexual or homosexual, living together, separated, or dating.

Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of background, race and age. About one in four women will experience domestic abuse sometime in her lifetime.

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Examples of Abusive Behavior

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

  • Ridicules opinions/beliefs
  • Continually criticizes or calls names
  • Humiliates in public or private
  • Threatens harms or suicide if relationship ends
  • Lies/contradicts, plays mind games
  • Withholds access/information about family finances
  • Destroys property or threatens to kill pets

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, kicks, bites
  • Hits, slaps, punches
  • Throws objects or destroys property
  • Locks partner out of home
  • Refuses to help when partner is ill or injured
  • Uses weapons against partner
  • Abandons partner in dangerous situations

Sexual Abuse

  • Forces unwanted sexual acts on partner
  • Accuses partner of cheating Insists partner dress in a sexual manner
  • Commits painful or cruel acts
  • Constantly criticizes partner sexually
  • Endangers partner’s sexual health with unprotected sex
  • Forced sex is against the law whether or not the attacker is your partner.

Spiritual Abuse

  • Quotes scripture to justify abusive, dominating, or other oppressive behaviors
  • Forces partner to violate religious beliefs
  • Prevents partner from attending church

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Signs of Abuse

Victims of domestic violence are not likely to speak openly about their relationship but may show subtle signs of having an abusive partner. Signs may include:

  • Unusually quiet or hesitant or unusually cheery behavior
  • Withdraws from activities and/or distances herself
  • Acts very guarded while talking on the telephone
  • Asks permission from partner to do ordinary things
  • Appears very depressed and/or anxious
  • Claims to be “accident-prone”
  • Makes comments about partner’s “moodiness,” “short fuse,” or “temper”
  • Glances quickly at partner before responding to a question or statement from others
  • Tries to smooth things over and works harder than seems necessary to avoid upsetting partner
  • Looks often at watch when away from home
  • Frequent vague physical symptoms and sicknesses
  • Makes a suicide attempt or gesture.

If you notice someone exhibiting these characteristics, don’t be afraid to privately ask her if she feels safe at home. If she tells you she does not, refer her to a local program for help.

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Why Women Stay

The National Institute of Justice reports that the period of time following a woman’s decision to leave a domestic violence situation is often the most dangerous time in the relationship. While intimate partner homicides make up 40-50 percent of all murders of women in the United States, a woman’s attempt to leave an abuser was the precipitating factor in 45 percent of those murders.

Not only do women stay for fear of her and her children’s safety should she try to leave, many women who experience domestic abuse may fear that they will be unable to provide for their families or be ostracized from their communities of support.

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How to Respond to Someone Who Reveals an Abusive Relationship

  1. Believe her. A person revealing abuse for the first time often only reveals part of the abuse. What you’re hearing may only be a small portion of much more extensive abuse.
  2. Reassure her that this is not her fault. She doesn’t deserve this treatment; it is not God’s will for her. She is not alone.
  3. Let her know that help is available and that you will be a support for her throughout her journey.
  4. Give her referral information for help at a local domestic violence agency. Do not recommend marital counseling as this can often put the abused person in more danger (see below for more information about couples/marriage counseling when abuse is present).
  5. Hold the abuser accountable – domestic abuse is never justified. Do not blame her.
  6. Pray with her.

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What about Couples/Marriage Counseling?

When abuse is present in a relationship, couples and marriage counseling is not recommended for several reasons, primarily because a person who is being abused may not be safe in a counseling session for fear of retribution from the abuser. Initially, individual counseling is recommended, although reconciliation counseling may be an option after the abuse has ended.

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What Faith Communities Can Do to Prevent Domestic Abuse

  1. Become Educated about Domestic Abuse. Safe Haven offers many opportunities to help faith communities recognize signs of abuse and learn how best to respond. Sign up to have someone come and speak to a small group or adult education class about domestic abuse. Faith leaders are invited to learn more about domestic abuse from a faith perspective and receive helpful resources through our free faith-based domestic violence orientation held twice per year at Safe Haven Ministries’ offices. For more information, click here.
  2. Give a Sermon on Domestic Violence. God desires Shalom (peace, wholeness, completeness) in our homes and on earth and yet Shalom cannot be present where there is domestic abuse. Let your community know that there is no justification for abuse. Taking a public stand against domestic abuse can give hope to women who are being abused and help prevent abuse from happening elsewhere.
  3. Discuss Domestic Abuse in Pre-Marital Counseling. Educate couples who are about to enter marriage on domestic abuse – what it is and why it’s wrong. Discuss this topic openly and let couples know that your faith tradition values healthy, peaceful relationships.
  4. Teach Teens about Healthy Relationships. One in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth. Make healthy relationship discussions part of your youth group curriculum. Take advantage of Safe Haven’s free dating-violence prevention program. For more information, click here.
  5. Post Resources for Help in Women’s Restrooms. Safe Haven Ministries is happy to provide you with posters including tear-off resource cards for your women’s restrooms. This is a safe and inconspicuous way for women who are being abused to learn that help is available.

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Recommended Reading

Fortune, M.M. (1995) Keeping the Faith: Guidance for Christian Women Facing Abuse. San Francisco: Harper Publishing.

Fortune, M.M. (2004) Forgiveness and Abuse: Jewish and Christian Reflections. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.

Gardsbane, D. (2001) Embracing Justice: A Resource Guide for Rabbis on Domestic Abuse. Washington, DC: Jewish Women International.

Gardsbane, D. (2001) Healing & Wholeness: A Resource Guide for Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community. Washington, DC: Jewish Women International.

Kaufman, C.G. (2003) Sins of Omission: The Jewish Community’s Reaction to Domestic Violence. Boulder, CO: Westview Publishing.

Miles, A. (2000) Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Miles, A. & Fortune, M.M. (2002) Violence in Families: What Every Christian Needs to Know. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Staff of Volcano Press. (1995) Family Violence and Religion: An Interfaith Resource Guide. Volcano, CA: Volcano Press.

Web Resources

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