By The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence
Broken. Silence. Broken. Silence.
These words mean a great deal to survivors of intimate abuse.
SAIV and our partners would like to see domestic violence included as a component of all theological education. A new poll of 1,000 pastors shows clearly that pastors often fail to address domestic and sexual violence appropriately. They consider themselves ill-equipped to respond to incidents of violence.
The following is taken from the Huffington Post article of June 2014 on this subject, entitled, “Pastors Rarely Preach About Domestic Violence Even Though It Affects Countless Americans.”
Co-sponsored by the Christian nonprofits, Sojourners and IMA World Health, the survey also found that pastors were more likely to believe domestic violence was an issue in their community (72%) than an issue in their church (25%). “I think many pastors still don’t think it exists in their congregation,” Yvonne DeVaughn, director of Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA), told LifeWay.
Violence against women was named as a “significant public health issue” by the World Health Organization in 2013, which reported that 35 percent of women around the globe have experienced sexual or physical abuse by a partner or non-partner. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the chance of a man experiencing abuse at the hand of an intimate partner was one in four.
What makes this poll unique is that there is not much data on how pastors view and address the issues of domestic and sexual violence. According to Rick Santos, President and CEO of IMA World Health, “there is little information out there about what is actually happening in the U.S. faith community on this issue.”
Despite the poll’s major finding — that pastors underestimate the pervasiveness of sexual and domestic violence in their congregations — the report offers some hope. Of the pastors polled, 81 percent reported that they would “take appropriate action to reduce sexual and domestic violence if they had the training and resources to do so.”
Sojourners recently published I Believe You: Sexual Violence and the Church , a study edited by its president and founder, Jim Wallis, and Catherine Woodiwiss, Associate Web Editor. The study features three essays about women, sexual violence, and their experiences in dealing with their abuse in their churches. It is a step forward in the effort to bring light to an issue that is often cloaked in darkness and to give voices to victims who often feel silenced by the church’s failure to understand the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence.
“This is a conversation the church needs to be having but isn’t,” Wallis said. “We cannot remain silent when our sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their homes and communities.”
This post was adapted, with permission, from SAIV's original blog post on their web-site, which can be found here: http://saiv.org/broken-silence-a-call-for-churches-to-speak-out/. Learn more about SAIV here: http://saiv.org/about/.