‘Surely not in my church?’ is a comment that we have heard at Restored when discussing that domestic abuse happens in churches too. For some churchgoers it is hard to believe that the people in their church could possibly be abusive to anyone, let alone someone they may know. It seems unthinkable, and yet it is a lived reality for many women who go to church.
It was that disbelief, coupled with a lack of academic evidence, that Restored commissioned research from Coventry University and the University of Leicester on the levels of domestic abuse amongst churchgoers across Cumbria. Why Cumbria? Well, Churches Together in Cumbria had been doing some excellent work with the, then local, service provider to deliver ten training days across the region in churches on domestic abuse. They were keen to know whether this had made an impact on how churches addressed the issue.
I think many, like me, do not tell when they are experiencing abuse. I felt ashamed and I didn’t want people to know.
— Female Survivor of domestic abuse, Cumbria —
Ground breaking research
In 2017 research was published. It revealed that one in four churchgoers (women and men) were suffering domestic abuse in their current relationships which rose to 42.2% when previous relationships were considered. Furthermore the research found that only 2 in 7 churchgoers considered their church to be adequately equipped to respond to domestic abuse. 56.7% of abuse involved Christian perpetrators. We are faced with the reality that our churches are places were those that chose to abuse sit amongst us.
Our Church Too?
These stats and figures may shock us. They may cause disbelief. You may think ‘oh well that wouldn’t happen in my area’ but the reality that one in four women in the UK will suffer abuse in her lifetime, should cause us to stop and reflect. Could this really happen here? Is it happening here? When you think of your own church and the number of women in your church, divide it by four, how many women could possibly have been or being abused? It’s good to be aware that this could be a possibility in your church.
At Restored we raise awareness of what domestic abuse is and what that looks like. We find that many do not understand that domestic abuse has its roots in the abuse of power and control over another person. It is not to do with anger, redundancy or alcohol (although these can act as enablers). Domestic abuse is a choice. Whilst, physical and sexual violence are the more well known forms of abuse - abuse is using whatever is in the abusers power to manipulate the other person to bring them under their control. This can be verbal threats, intimidation, bullying, verbal abuse, playing psychological mind games, using finances to control the person, using children as a means of abuse or control, threatening to do things to make the other person submit and, in the Christian context, misusing scripture as the ultimate means of control.
What can we do?
So what can you do? Your church do? There are simple actions that you can take. The first is to make yourself aware of what domestic abuse is and what that looks like. Could you identify signs of abuse? Could your church support the local refuge for women? Do you know who the local service provider is for domestic abuse? Could you or your church give to Restored on a regular basis to enable us to continue the vital work we do?
Purchase a copy of our Church Guide
Our Church Guide has been designed to empower churches to engage with the challenges of domestic abuse, to root it out, to support survivors and to teach a better way.Church Pack