By Emily Esworthy, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
I have been working with the WeWillSpeakOut.US coalition for over two years, and our underlying mission is to empower churches and other faith communities to “speak out” against sexual and domestic violence and amplify the voices that are already out there.
The Problem of Silence
Anecdotally, we know the Church in general has not been the most inspiring when it comes to the prevention of and response to sexual and domestic violence. (How many messages have you heard about it in church?) Hoping for concrete data, this June we partnered with Sojourners to commission a LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 US Protestant pastors to gauge their experiences and responses to sexual and domestic violence. The result was a report titled, “Broken Silence: A Call for Churches to Speak Out.”
One of the key findings was that almost two-thirds of pastors (65%) speak once a year or less about this issue, with 10% never addressing it at all. This silence is troublesome and shows that most of our churches really are turning a blind eye to a painful problem that as many as one in three women (and many men) will experience.
Enter Speak Out Sunday
To encourage pastors and other faith leaders to speak out, WeWillSpeakOut.US created our annual “Speak Out Sunday,” which falls on Sunday, November 23, 2014 this year. (For those who don’t worship on Sundays, we encourage you to host a Speak Out Sabbath or Service on a nearby date that suits you.)
Why this date? The United Nations has designated November 25 as the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.” This day kicks off the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, observed from November 25 through December 10. Each year we choose the Sunday that fits best within that time-frame to serve as the faith community’s platform for uniting with these global efforts.
But here’s the rub: some pastors aren’t ready to speak out.
I have talked with many, many survivors who have told me their pastor recommended they pray harder or submit more readily to their abusive spouse. Others have said their pastor accused them of desiring their rape or dressing in such a way as to “ask for it.”
Furthermore, the Broken Silence report showed that 62% of pastors provided couples or marriage counseling in response to domestic and/or sexual violence. This is a potentially very harmful response, because it puts the victim in further danger.
There is much to be done to adequately prepare pastors to address sexual and domestic violence. Through WeWillSpeakOut.US we are working to connect these pastors to the theological and practical resources that can be of help to them, and our vision is that churches participating in Speak Out Sunday will do so with ample prayer and preparation behind it so as not to risk revictimizing someone.
Supporting your Speak Out Sunday
Are you ready to speak out? Great! We’re here to help. Our suit of free tools and resources for pastors to use when gearing up for Speak Out Sunday is growing all the time. We have a sermon guide, a recorded webinar, a flyer of hotline numbers to post in your bathrooms, and more. For the full list, click here.
As you map our your Speak Out Sunday, here are some critical things to keep in mind:
· If you speak out, be prepared to have to take action. Statistically, there are people in your pews who have been victims and/or perpetrators of violence, and your sermon is likely elicit a response. We strongly recommend having a licensed counselor present at your service and a private room where they can talk quietly with anyone who may need support.
· Have a referral process in place. If someone discloses to you that they have been abused, you’ll want to have the local crisis centers on speed dial. Find your local centers and shelters here or by using a simple Google search, and then contact them to introduce yourself. They may even be able to provide a counselor to attend your Speak Out Sunday service.
We hope you’ll prayerfully consider hosting your own Speak Out Sunday this year, or at least taking the next steps to prepare yourself and your church to prevent and respond to violence.
Your first next step is signing our Pledge Against Violence, which will put you on our email list and remind you of your commitment to speak out!
Emily Esworthy is a Marketing and Communications Officer for IMA World Health and the Secretariat for WeWillSpeakOut U.S. – a faith-based coalition and movement of diverse faith groups from across the US that joins together with other leaders, organizations and congregations in action and advocacy to end the silence around sexual and gender based violence.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
When helping a loved one who’s in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know, honor, and protect your own limits--including your emotions, knowledge, and physical safety. In today’s post, I’ll explore each of these and suggest strategies for times when you reach your limits.
Taking Care of Your Emotions
Abusive relationships can be emotionally exhausting for everyone involved, including friends and family members who offer their help and support. First and foremost, knowing that someone you care about is being hurt can be very sad. You care for them, and so of course you want to see them happy and being treated with love. In addition to sadness, you may be scared for their safety. Maybe you’ve seen what their abusive partner has done to them in the past, and you’re afraid that it could be that bad--or worse--again.
Confusion can be another powerful emotion when you’re trying to help someone involved in an abusive relationship. Your confusion may stem from difficulty understanding how the abusive partner can be so hurtful, why your friend is staying in the relationship, or what your role in the situation should be. The situation can change on a daily--if not hourly--basis, and so you may find yourself questioning what is happening, even if you’re very close to the situation.
In light of all the emotions that can arise when helping a friend who is being abused, you should think not only about their emotional needs, but your needs as well. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help to manage your own emotions related to the situation. You can benefit from talking with a friend, family member, or even a professional counselor. Engage in other healthy coping strategies to help you manage the stress and emotions you may experiencing. For example, you may benefit from getting physical exercise, practicing yoga or meditation, journaling, or drawing upon your religious or spiritual beliefs to help you cope.
Many people who want to help a friend who’s being abused face a risk of burnout, as the process of ending an abusive relationship and getting safe can be long and tumultuous. Therefore, in order to best support your friend in the long-term, it’s important to make sure you’re also taking good care of yourself in the process.
Recognizing the Limits of Your Knowledge
Unless you’re professionally trained to help people who are being abused or you’ve had some other form of training or experiences to help you understand the dynamics of abuse, it’s likely that there are important pieces of information that you don’t yet know that would help you best to support your friend. And, honestly, you’re not alone! Even many professionals who work with victims every day encounter situations in which there are no clear answers as to what actions are best to take to help the person be safe. The truth is, when it comes to abusive relationships, there are very few easy decisions to make!
Rest assured--there is help available for you to know how to help your friend! You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233; TTY: 1-800-787-3224) or your local domestic violence program to ask for assistance in knowing what steps you can take to help your friend. Most likely, you’ll be able to receive confidential help and ask for advice without disclosing your friend’s name. You may or may not even tell your friend that you called, depending on the nature of the situation.
If you feel that your friend needs help beyond what you can offer, you can help them to locate services and resources in their local community. If you don’t already know which community resources are available, you can contact your state domestic violence coalition to ask for their assistance. If ever there is an immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency hotline to connect with emergency responders.
In addition to all of the challenges that your friend is facing in the abusive relationship, navigating community service agencies can be overwhelming and frustrating. Therefore, one of the critical ways you can help them is by supporting them as they navigate these systems and learning about other resources available to promote their safety.
Maintaining Your Physical Safety
Violence in an abusive relationship can spill over to other people, so it’s important to take steps to promote your own safety if you’re helping a friend who’s involved in an abusive relationship. Ask your friend if they know if their abuser has ever made threats to hurt other people. In addition, ask if they know if their abuser has access to weapons, especially firearms. Be sure to consider your own safety when you consider ways to help your friend.
For example, your friend may need a place to stay after leaving the relationship. When deciding whether to do this, be sure to consider if this will be a safety risk for you and anyone else who lives in the house. Be especially cautious if the abuser has threatened to hurt you, if they’re stalking or following your friend, and/or if they have access to lethal weapons. If you think that housing your friend would pose too great a safety risk, then you can help them to locate other sources of safe shelter, such as a domestic violence shelter, a hotel room, or another friend or family member who lives somewhere unknown to the abuser. Use similar precautions for any other action that could potentially put you in harm’s way.
When safety threats are imminent, I urge you to report them to law enforcement, and please use extreme caution before involving yourself in any situation that may pose a risk to your own physical safety. Again, you can reach out for support to your local law enforcement agency and/or a local or national domestic violence hotline in order to think through how best to protect your own safety while helping your friend.
When helping a friend who is being abused, it’s important to know your limits and protect your own emotional and physical safety. When you reach your own limits, know where you can turn for additional help, information, and support. Remember the old adage: “You can’t help others until you help yourself.” You’ll be in the best position to help your friend if you come to the process from a calm, strong place. Self-care is a critical component of being able to help others.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Imagine you’re on the outside of an abusive relationship, looking in. Suppose the person being abused is someone you know and care about. You’ve probably witnessed or heard about the way their partner treats them. Maybe they’ve even come to you for help, and you offered your advice and support, and then you were upset when they returned to the relationship. You’re confused and frustrated because you don’t understand their choices. It may be tempting to look at the person being abused and wonder things like, “What are they thinking?” or even, “What is wrong with them that they’d stay with their partner when they’re getting treated so terribly?”
But now, imagine, for a moment, that you are the one who is being abused by your partner who supposedly loves you. You probably still love them, or at least you loved them at one point. If you’ve been together for a long time, you share many aspects of your life with that person--maybe you have children together, or you own a house together. You may share friends, hobbies, a social circle, and even dreams for the future. You have some good memories of happy times you’ve shared, and it’s hard to imagine life without your partner.
And still, this person hurts you. Maybe not all the time, but they’ve hurt you--whether physically and/or emotionally--in ways that you know, at least on some level, are not right. You may fear for your safety if you stay with your partner, but they also may have threatened to hurt you even worse if you leave. Not only are you afraid of what your partner may do to you, but you’re also scared of the other consequences you could face if you ended the relationship--which might include living in poverty, losing time with your children, and losing friendships.
Just how different is the view from the outside, compared to the inside, of an abusive relationship?
From the outside looking into an abusive relationship, it can be tempting to judge a person who is staying with someone who is hurting them. However, from the outside, it’s nearly impossible to know the full story of how that person thinks and feels about their relationship, as well as their reasons for staying with their partner.
For this reason, our first suggested step to helping someone who is involved in an abusive relationship is to try your hardest to avoid judging that person and their decisions. I know this is not easy. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. It may even seem impossible, especially if you're emotionally invested in the person who is being hurt. Not only can it make you feel confused because you don’t understand their reasons for staying, but also you may feel sad and scared, as you want that person to be safe and respected.
I have never met, or even heard of, an abused person who actually wanted to be abused or did anything to “deserve” being treated that way. I can tell you this based on my experiences as a counselor, as well as through our research with hundreds of survivors, in addition to my experiences teaching, doing trainings, and numerous other work and volunteer experiences through which I’ve interacted with people who had personal and professional experiences related to intimate partner violence.
Of course, I have known people who were being abused who didn’t want their relationships to end, but they always wanted the abuse to end. Always. Their reasons for wanting to remain in their relationships were diverse. When we begin to fully appreciate the complexity of people’s lives, we can see that very rarely are there clear-cut, easy answers as to whether a significant intimate relationship should end or continue. Even when the answer seems simple, the steps required to end that relationship can be very, very difficult. In some cases, those steps are life-threatening.
Therefore, we suggest that the first step to helping a person who you know or suspect is being abused is to approach the situation and the person with a non-judgmental, supportive perspective and an open mind. Any judgment that the person perceives from you could lead them to turn away from you and view you as unhelpful, regardless of how positive and supportive your intentions may be.
Three statements you can make to remind yourself to remain non-judgmental are:
* “I don’t know the whole story.”
* “I have no idea how I would respond if I was in this person’s exact same situation.”
* “I can best help this person by supporting them, not judging them.”
Although this is the first step we suggest, we know it may be one of the most difficult. However, it is also perhaps the most important step in being able to help and support someone who is being abused. By providing a supportive, nonjudgmental presence for that person, you can provide a powerful statement about how important it is to understand and honor their value as a person, as well as their unique perspective on their situation and relationship.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Would you be ready to help someone you care about if you found out that they were in an abusive relationship?
Many people struggle with how to help when someone they know is experiencing abuse in a relationship. There are several steps you can take to help your loved one. We encourage you to print out the checklist below (you can print the picture or the pdf file below the picture), or you can save it to your computer or smartphone so you'll have it if you ever need it. Fill in the name and number of your local agency to personalize it even further.
Helping someone who is in an abusive relationship can be very challenging, but there are steps you can take to provide support to them and help promote their safety.
By Sara Smith, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Many people struggle with how to help a friend or other loved one who is in an unsafe, abusive relationship. Talking to a friend who you are worried about can be daunting. The fear of interfering, being wrong, or possibly driving them away can keep many people from reaching out. If you are concerned for someone’s safety in a relationship, you can turn to many available resources that may help you start the conversation. According to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (2014), some important things to consider when talking to a friend include the following:
There are some important things to try to avoid when helping a friend. These include the following:
You don’t have to be an expert to help someone who is in an abusive relationship. What’s important is to show them that you’re concerned and deeply care about the happiness and safety of your friend. That is important enough. Be there when they need support, and help them reach out to support systems and resources as they are ready. If they’re not ready to hear you or are not ready to leave, make yourself available to be there when they become ready. Remember to be patient.
Stay calm, arm yourself with knowledge and resources, and good luck in supporting your friend or loved one in becoming another survivor!
Sara Smith is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health and Couple and Family Counseling.
See the Triumph Guest Blogger, Heather Teater, created the video below to share reasons why it's important to reach out to help someone you care about if they're involved in an abusive relationship.
Heather Teater recently completed her Master's degree in Couple and Family Counseling in the Department of Counseling and Educational Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Some time back, a member of our See the Triumph community, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared with us the poem below, which she wrote. On writing this poem, she said, "For years I had been desperately trying to understand my daughter's situation and to help her. She found and shared two books with me, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft and To Be An Anchor in the Storm by Susan Brewster. They were a profound read for both of us. Inspired by the latter, I woke up in the middle of the night, and these words poured out."
These words capture so beautifully the best type of support that people can offer to someone they love who is in an abusive relationship. We are so thankful to the author for sharing this with us, and allowing us to share it with you!
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we wanted to focus on one specific, and very important, component of domestic violence awareness throughout the month. Our goal for the month is to share resources and information to help anyone be equipped and ready to help if someone they know becomes involved in an abusive relationship.
Many people in my own life know that I work to address domestic violence. One of the most common question people ask me related to this is how they can best support someone who they suspect or know is being abused. It may be a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, fellow church member, client, or even a situation in which they witnessed an abusive incident out in public (e.g., at the grocery store) and didn’t know if or how to respond.
We know that many people in abusive relationships become very isolated through those relationships. However, in most cases, there is a ripple effect on various other people who are affected by every abusive relationship. This includes friends and family members of both the victim and the perpetrator. In addition, the direct and indirect effects can spill over into workplaces, neighborhoods, community and religious groups, schools, and the list goes on.
There are any number of people who may be concerned for the safety of the victim (as well as any children who are involved), and it is very normal for people to feel compelled to help, but unsure how to do so. It can be very confusing and frustrating to be on the outside of an abusive relationship, looking in and wanting to help, and yet not knowing what to do.
Of course, every situation is unique, and each situation will require a unique response. However, we also believe that there are some basic steps that virtually anyone could take to provide empowering, safety-promoting support to someone who is being abused by a relationship partner.
This month, join us as we focus on those steps. Our main focus will be on the 5 steps outlined below, from this list we created a while back through See the Triumph:
In addition to blogs that provide more information about each of these steps, this month you’ll find other suggestions, strategies, and resources to help you be ready to help if you ever find yourself trying to figure out how to help someone you know who is being abused.
Throughout the month, we also look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic! After all, what could be more powerful during Domestic Violence Awareness Month than to equip yourself with the awareness needed to be prepared to help someone you care about?
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
College is a time of vast change for young adults. It is also a time of many firsts, which could involve your first time living on your own, first time having a roommate, first time taking college-level courses, first committed romantic relationship, and possibly first time drinking alcohol. While not all students on college campuses drink, many do. College culture as a whole is affected largely by the influence of alcohol and the sense of comradery that occurs among students who live together on campus. However, alcohol also inhibits students' decision making skills. Therefore, as a sexual violence prevention educator, I believe that ignoring the amount of drinking that takes place on college campuses is not only counterproductive, it's downright dangerous!
The danger of ignoring students’ use of alcohol lies not only within the alcohol drinking alone, but its connection to sexual assault. On college campuses, perpetrators of sexual assault use the consumption of alcohol as a tool to reduce their victims’ decision making and motor skills. It’s important to note that alcohol is not the cause of sexual assault on college campuses--the perpetrators themselves are the only ones to blame. Nevertheless, the use of this drug to inhibit victims is clearly identifiable. Consider this: research shows that as many as 90% of all rapes on college campuses occur when either the perpetrator or victim was using alcohol (Brown University, Health Promotions).
Where does this statistic leave parents, educators, and students? Does it mean that we don’t send our children off to college? Or that even college students over the age of 21 shouldn’t be allowed to drink? Neither of these seem to be the answer--but what is? For me, the answer lies in education. Just like with any other health concern, we must educate students about sexual assault before they attend college and again while they are on campus.
Research shows that women in late adolescence to early adulthood are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted. Therefore, we must educate young women that sexual assault is a daily risk, with or without the consumption of alcohol, especially for those between the ages of 18 and 24 (Collins & Messerschmidt, 1993). Furthermore, when alcohol is added to the equation, women are even more at risk for being sexually assaulted. Most importantly though, we need to educate women that sexual assault is never okay and that it is never their fault. But we can’t stop there! We can’t just educate half of the population and make it their responsibility to fend off criminals.
Research also shows that most perpetrators of sexual assault are men (Sedgwick, 2006). Instead of victim blaming, lets hold the perpetrators accountable! We need to teach them that just because a partner has agreed to some level of intimacy, it does not mean they are entitled to take it farther, and that if they do so without permission, it’s sexual assault. They should know that getting sex by using coercion and manipulation are in fact forms of sexual assault. Men need to understand that feeding someone drinks in order to make obtaining sex easier is sexual assault. It’s our responsibility to teach men to look for ‘enthusiastic consent’ before engaging in sexual activity, instead of acting upon a lack of a ‘no.’ Finally, men need to face the reality that if somebody reports that they were sexually assaulted while drunk, it can not only change their own lives, but also that survivor’s life.
It’s not only women who are affected by sexual assault on campus, men are too. Women, like men, can be perpetrators of sexual assault. It’s our responsibility to teach both men and women (beginning at a young age) to understand personal boundaries. This means asking for consent before engaging in any kind of intimate act, whether it be as silly as tickling or as serious as sex. When it comes to alcohol, both men and women need to know that if either party is intoxicated that they can not legally give consent. Alcohol has the potential to change things, and it only takes a matter of seconds to violate, shame, degrade and sexually assault someone--therefore before these things are ever able to happen, let’s take the time to educate our young adults.