Faith and Domestic Violence – A Personal Perspective

If you walk the corridors of domestic violence (DV) intervention long enough, you will hear it. DV advocates admonishing faith leaders for stepping into “unfamiliar” territories. “Don’t intervene in domestic violence cases, let us do it. If you must, get some training on DV!” The faith leaders are not sitting down passively. They speak with words and by their actions. “My congregation is my responsibility. I take my directives from God and not from you, DV advocates. We’ve got this covered. We had it covered before you showed up, and we will have it covered after you have left.” This by the way, is not what you hear all the time, and from everyone. But it is not an uncommon dialogue.

My concern though is that while this conversation is going on, people are hurting, and lives are being permanently altered – sometimes, for the worst. Is there some way to make the “dialogue” more productive? I think so. I believe that indepth consideration should be given to fundamental principles guiding the positions of DV advocates and faith leaders. Then, deliberate on-going attempts should be made on harmonizing all positions as best as possible.

Here is my understanding of the perspection of many faith leaders. One, domestic violence dialogues only result in breaking up marriages. Domestic violence dialogues are being advocated by persons who do not share our faith, and whose objectives may be to discredit our faith. Consequently, domestic violence dialogues are to be avoided. From the DV advocates, I hear, “victims should be rescued from abusers, and we will provide them all the necessary support to make this possible if they so decide.”

Many DV interventions these days target faith communities. Why? This is a reflection of the reality of the influence of faith and faith leaders on victims and abusers alike. Efforts to embrace the faith community, however continue to fall short of desired outcomes. If we phrased our message differently, could we cover more ground? I think so. What if we emphasized “Healthy Relationships, and the obvious and non-obvious consequences of unhealthy relationships (future health challenges, mental health issues etc)?” And many DV advocates are doing this already, but I am not sure  many faith communities are hearing it clearly.  The message that – We are not asking people to leave their marriages. We are just advocating for people be in healthly relationships and position themselves to be in a healthy frame of mind. If the only way for that to happen is my them leaving their abuser, then so be it.

Seriously, if faith leaders listened to all they are told by outsides, there would be no praying, no scripture reading, and no believing in miracles! They have to listen to their own. And the faith community message is that marriage is forever. Meanwhile, “marriage is forever” is almost like a curse word for some DV advocates. But really, we don’t have a problem with marriage being forever, I don’t think. We have a problem with abuse existing, and worst still, being forever. We may be able to cover more grounds by whether we say “half a dozen” or “six.” Can we engage the faith communities more comfortable by saying “Nobody should remain in an unhealthy relationship” instead of “People should leave abusive relationships?” We will get the same outcome, won’t we?

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