The numbers are chilling: a woman is murdered every week, and one woman is hospitalised every three hours. Around one in four women have experienced violence by an intimate partner. While this campaign has a strong focus on men’s violence against women (considering 95 per cent of all violence committed against both men and women is committed by men1), Common Grace strongly opposes all intimate partner and family violence.
We know that domestic and family violence happens within all communities of faith regardless of one’s denomination or theological background. It is likely that there are both victims and perpetrators present in every local congregation.
We also know there are many Christians who want to do something about domestic and family violence. However, it is such a large and complex problem that they are often daunted by the prospect.
The 2016 Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence made several specific recommendations for faith communities.2 In particular, the Commissioners noted that faith leaders demonstrate a strong commitment to responding to domestic and family violence, but lack the understanding and knowledge of how to recognise and respond appropriately.
The importance of churches
Common Grace affirms that churches are uniquely positioned to respond helpfully in situations of abuse as they work to protect and nurture the spiritual well-being of their members.
Christian victims may turn to church leaders for spiritual guidance and support before, or instead of, secular domestic violence services when seeking help. Often however, when victims call out for help and churches try to respond, well-meaning pastors, leaders and friends urge them to try couples' counselling, which tends to leave the abuse and trauma unchanged.
Within churches, perpetrators also turn to ministers, either to legitimise their abuse or to help address their behaviours. Ministers may then be asked then to provide guidance and counselling to both the victim and their abuser, often causing more harm than good. It is clear that Australian churches need better ways of responding to abuse in Christian families. This is why we created SAFER.
It is our earnest hope the Australian Church can become better informed about how to deal with domestic and family violence. It is frighteningly pervasive, and there is little doubt that it affects our communities and congregations.
Abuse survivors endure some of the most harrowing pain a person could ever know, and their need for God’s love, truth and healing is deep and real. Knowing the signs of abuse and responding appropriately — starting with safety planning and referrals to specialist support services — may just help save someone’s life.
This online resource is designed to help Christian leaders and church members respond wisely to both victims and abusers, making their communities SAFER.
SAFER seeks to:
- Educate churches about family violence
- Provide guidance on how to support and intervene
- Promote respectful relationships between the genders
- Provide a theological framing to the issue of domestic violence
- Advocate for greater resourcing, support and understanding.