On April 1, 2019, Autumn Miles joined the indoubt Podcast on Episode 168: Domestic Violence Looks Like Me. In the episode, Autumn talks about the study that she was part of with LifeWay and a recommended list of 10 things that you and your church can do to better prepare for domestic violence situations. The original publication of this list is available here: www.autumnmiles.com/lifeway-study.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, or you can go to their website www.thehotline.org.
The question isn’t whether domestic violence is happening within evangelical circles, but how fervently friends, family and the church will address it. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The following 10 steps are a recommendation that should act as a helper to you and your church to prepare for when domestic violence is communicated to you.
1. Communicate Domestic Violence is a Problem
Statistics say that 1 in 4 women are victims of abuse during their lifetime. Odds are, you have members of your congregation who are suffering silently. Make domestic violence part of the conversation at your church, and make it clear that victims will be loved and cared for if they come forward.
2. Know and Familiarize Your Team with the Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Keep it posted so staff members can access it if needed. Often times, immediate action is critical in situations regarding domestic violence. It is very important churches are familiar with the hotline, so they can quickly and effectively help those in need.
3. Find a Domestic Violence Shelter in Your Community
Many domestic violence victims fear reprisal from their partner for sharing about the abuse. If they have opened up to you, they need a safe place to stay. Find a battered women’s shelter in your area, and know how to contact the managers. These shelters provide a locked, clean and safe environment for women and children.
If your community doesn’t have a domestic violence shelter, set up a safe house hosted by someone in the church who can provide temporary housing for women and children escaping domestic violence.
4. Identify Christian Counsellors Who Specialize in Domestic Violence
After leaving an abusive situation, victims need godly counselling to heal their emotional, mental and spiritual scars. Before you ever have a victim come forward, your church needs to have relationships with counsellors in your area who can provide assistance.
5. Listen to the Victim
Victims of domestic violence are often brainwashed, and deciding to leave takes an enormous amount of courage because they have been threatened not to tell anyone. They feel isolated and alone. One of the most important things you can do is just listen to them, and let them tell their story.
6. Encourage them to Call the Police
The victim may be hesitant to call the police, but this is an important step to ensuring their safety. Furthermore, having an official report of the abuse can be helpful for future restraining orders and/or custody battles.
7. Help Them Make a Plan to Leave the Abusive Situation
Leaving an abuser is difficult because the unknown of life alone can seem scarier than the known abuse. Furthermore, a victim’s identity is often tied up in the abuse. If the victim resists going straight to a shelter or safe house, help them make a plan to leave. Set a date, tell them to pack a bag and help them execute the plan.
8. Identify Survivors of Domestic Violence Who Can Mentor the Victim
If you have a survivor of domestic violence in your church, who has gone on to lead a successful life, see if they would be open to mentoring victims. Many victims have no support system, so having someone to look up to can be a great encouragement.
9. Offer Rehabilitation to the Abuser
If the abuser doesn’t go to jail, they still need to be challenged and confronted by the church, if they are a member of the congregation. Contact the abuser, let them know their behaviour is unacceptable but offer counselling to rehabilitate them.
10. Follow Up
Your work is not done when the victim is removed safely from the abuse. Healing from domestic violence takes months or years, and it is hard for victims to stay away from their abusers. Follow up often to ensure the victim is recovering and remaining safe.
These 10 steps are a guideline to help you and your church to become better informed and learn how to properly handle a situation of domestic violence.
In the study that Autumn Miles was involved in, they list three things that you should never do in the situation of domestic violence.
- Encourage the victim to reunite with their abuser.
- Do nothing.
- Allow gossip to arise about the victim. Keep their situation private the staff members and counsellors involved.
By providing this article, indoubt hopes that you will be encouraged in your personal life and your church family to become better equipped to handle a relationship with domestic violence. Again, this is only a recommendation from Autumn Miles and her study with LifeWay, so if you would like to add to the list or replace some points, absolutely adjust to what fits your community best.