The Facts: Often we are unaware of the full scope and pervasiveness of domestic violence in our country and globally, as well as the powerful role each of us can play in curbing abuse and supporting survivors. A good place to start is familiarizing ourselves with some of the most crucial facts about domestic violence. Futures Without Violence offers a handout of some of these facts (available here.)
Myths and Facts About Domestic Violence: Misinformation about domestic violence can sometimes cause more harm than ignorance. Familiarize yourself with some of the myths about domestic violence contrasted with the facts. (Diagram provided by the YMCA, dated 2017).
“Power Wheel”: Those in abusive relationships often minimize the severity of the situation they’re in. It doesn’t help if those around them aren’t aware of the profound difference between an abusive relationship and a healthy one. These diagrams, one showing the dynamics of how power is used in a healthy relationship, and one in an abusive one, are a very helpful place to start.
Cycle of Abuse: Domestic violence usually follows a predictable pattern, or cycle: an abusive incident, a period of remorse or a “making up,” a period of relative calm, then a period of tension building followed by another abusive behavior. This is crucial to know to avoid mistaking a time of seeming calm for resolution, or mistaking the “making up” stage for true repentance. See this page for a diagram of the cycle and a more detailed explanation of each stage.
Grooming: It’s important for bystanders to understand that most sexual abuse follows a process of targeting and “grooming” a victim to gradually let down their defenses until they no longer realize the danger they’re in. Understanding this process is crucial to avoid blaming the victim for “allowing” the abuse to occur. A succinct summary of a typical progression is available here.
Emotional Abuse is a serious form of domestic violence–considered a form of violence because it attacks a victim’s sense of personhood, agency, and worth. Yet emotional abuse is often not taken seriously unless it escalates into physical violence. For more on faith communities taking emotional abuse seriously and supporting its victims, read “The Courage to Leave.”
The Relationship Between Grace and Justice: In “An Unholy Alliance,” Jonathan Hollingsworth (shared via Boz Tchividjian) addresses the way in which faith communities can often re-victimize the abused by misunderstanding and misusing the concepts of grace and forgiveness. He writes, “There’s a fine line between offering a perpetrator grace and denying a victim justice, and it’s a line that Christian culture crosses all too often.”
Responding to Abuse Allegations: Assessing how to respond as a community to allegations of abuse is overwhelming and often something faith communities feel ill-equipped for. This “toolkit,” provided by the CRCNA’s abuse prevention and response ministry, is a great place to start.
GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Setting), is an organization focused on child sexual abuse, that is available for training, consultation, and resources during investigations of abuse allegations in a Christian context.
Learn More: Free online training courses, “The See The Signs & Speak Out: Become an Upstander” series, are available for any of us to gain tools to help play our part to end domestic violence and support survivors (funded by the Avon Foundation for Women.)
Organizations to Turn To:
-If you are in immediate danger or feel unsafe, call 911.
–The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-499-7233 (SAFE) has access to service providers and shelters across the US. Its hotline is available 24/7