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Pastoral care for those affected by domestic violence

The month of May is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Australia. Here are some ways you can help and support those affected by domestic violence.

Cathy Gravitis

May 12, 2022

The month of May is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Australia.

In Australia, one woman per week and one man per month dies from domestic or family violence.

Approximately one in six women and one in sixteen men have experienced violence from an intimate partner.

Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial abuse. The one commonality between all these types of abuse is that it is designed to control a person and their actions.

It’s a complex issue to stamp out, as there is no one single cause. However, gender inequality is at its core.

What can We do?

1. Get our houses in order

  • Proactively, teach and model respectful and Godly relationships.
  • We are called to be set apart from this world, not conformed to it as our dv stats suggest.
  • If you are the perpetrator, please come to our pastoral team for help without fear of condemnation. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Please know that you are not beyond God’s help, and we’d love to help you get the professional help that you need to see both you and your family transformed.
  • If you are the victim, please come to us for help. We will listen to and believe your story, absolve you of any blame, pray with you, companion with you, and most importantly help you get the help you need.

2. Pray

Pray if you’re the perpetrator:
In prayer we have a personal audience with Almighty God and assume a posture of humility. In that space we become intensely aware of our shortcomings, which is a good thing because it drives us to seek God’s great help and forgiveness.

Pray if you are the victim:
Worries are just prayers that we say to ourselves. Prayers are taking the things that we worry about and giving them to someone who can do something about it (Mike Lynch).

Pray both for perpetrators and victims of DV:
Don’t ever say “I can’t do anything, “just” pray. Your prayers release the power of God. It’s been said that “when we work, we work, but when we pray God works.”

Domestic violence is a problem of epidemic proportions – with man it is impossible to overcome, but with God, all things are possible!

Here are two prayers that you might like to pray:

Saviour, Jesus, you are the light of the world and in you there is no darkness at all. May your light expose domestic violence both within the church and within our community, so that this evil and injustice that brings dishonour to your name and causes such harm may be stamped out.

Lord God, we ask for the perpetrators of domestic violence. May the wonderful and powerful work of your Spirit bring their hearts to repentance, and begin the process of transforming their hearts, mind, thoughts, words, attitudes, and behaviour.

Gracious Father, thank you that you care so much for the victims of domestic violence that you collect all their tears in a bottle, and each one is on record. Please give them abundant hope and unassailable safety in their fear, infinite wisdom as they consider next steps and courage as they begin the process of healing.

Through Christ’s name we pray,

Amen.

Father God, you say that true love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Father God in our church families where relationships are nothing like this, we ask for your forgiveness, and that the perpetrators of domestic violence would recognise their abusive behaviour, seek help, and through your transforming power become instruments of peace.

Please Lord God give us the courage to face the uncomfortable truth of the prevalence of domestic violence within your church and with humility and a contrite heart we ask that you’d forgive those who’ve misused Scripture to justify abuse, and where we’ve knowingly or unknowingly permitted, ignored, down played or excused violence.

Please give us eyes and ears to hear the “at risk” and vulnerable people around us, the grace, love, sensitivity, and courage to companion with them in their journey and help them get the support and assistance that they need.

In your mighty name we pray,

Amen.

3. Pastoral Support

Listen

Being listened to is incredibly empowering and cathartic for the victim.

  • Give them lots of “space” to share their story, their way, and in their time.

Effective use of silence following disclosures. Premature verbal responses on our part may prevent a victim from comprehending and reflecting on their story – a necessary part of their journey to embarking on the path of healing. Therapeutic silence also invites the victim to “tell more” and enables them to set the pace of the session. It conveys empathy, respect, and support.

  • Only speak when necessary. When you do need to speak, focus on capturing the victims’ feelings rather than “interrogating” them with questions in order to ascertain facts (unless they’re in immediate danger).
  • Demonstrate empathy through your non-verbal communication, and by “matching” the intensity of their feeling in your non-verbal and verbal communication.

Validate and believe them

  • Validate their worth in Christ, and their decision to seek help.
  • Believing their story is incredibly important, as fear of not being believed prevents many victims from divulging their abuse. Your belief in their story empowers them and gives them strength for the next leg of their journey to report and/or seek professional help.

Be clear that they are not to blame

  • Perpetrators of domestic violence often have victims believing that they ‘deserve” their abuse in some way. It is important that as pastoral carers we absolve the victims of this false belief. Say something like, “violence is never acceptable. There is nothing that you have done that justifies the abuse that you have received.”
  • Avoid asking questions that may potentially be interpreted as you are implying that the violence was somehow the victim’s fault, or something that they should have been able to control. Questions like, “Why don’t you leave?” What could you have done to avoid this situation?”, or “Why did they hit you?”

Help them seek help

  • Offer to sit with them whilst they contact one of the below organisations.
  • Provide regular pastoral follow up.

NB: Pastoral care of a perpetrator involves listening, validating their decision to seek help, assurance of forgiveness when repentant, helping them to seek help, and holding them accountable for their choices and actions, as well as continuation in treatment/therapy.

4. Financial Support

Please consider donating to organisations like Banksia Women. Banksia Women is a collective of women experienced in working with women affected by domestic and family violence (DFV), and female volunteers who are passionate about building up women and their children who have experienced DFV. They are an affiliated program to St John’s Community Services and are based in Kings Cross/Darlinghurst area.

Banksia Women offer a range of programs to support women who have experienced domestic violence. One of these programs is a community funded project called “Never justified” which provides case management and supportive services for survivors of DFV.

Click here to donate to Banksia Women.

Free domestic and family violence support services

  • 1800RESPECT
  • National Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault helpline
    • 1800 200 526 (24hrs)
  • Domestic Violence Crisis Service
  • Family Violence Response and Counselling Referral Line
    • 1800 633 937 (24hrs)
  • Lifeline
  • Relationships Australia
  • DVConnect Mensline:
  • MensLine Australia
  • LGBTQIA Support for Domestic Violence
    • 1800 063 060
    • Book Recommendation:“Is it Abuse? A Biblical guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims (2020) by Darby Strickland
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