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Carol Hallman: on domestic violence

There are certain things we in the church don’t like to talk about. Things like addiction, sex and sexuality, sincere doubt, mental illness, loneliness and domestic violence. These topics make us uncomfortable and yet where else should we talk about these issues? If we can’t talk about them in church than how do we work through these issues when we or someone we love are struggling with them? All of these topics are worthy of discussion but today I want to lift up the topic of domestic violence as October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness month and the Family Crisis Council just sponsored the Vigil at the courthouse on Monday the 12th. Here we learned from Sheriff Kevin Auten that since 2014 there have been three deaths due to domestic violence here in Rowan County. Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence tell us that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of some sort of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. According to Renee Bradshaw, director of the Family Crisis Council there were 60 deaths due to domestic violence in NC

Domestic violence is an important topic to discuss especially from a faith perspective because too often too many women (and men) stay in toxic relationships because they think that they have to, after all “isn’t that what the Bible says” or their churches tell them that divorce is wrong. Chances are that know someone who is being abused or has been abused. How many are actually in abusive relationships we may never actually know because not all abuse is reported.

Domestic violence refers to a pattern of violent and coercive behavior exercised by one adult in an intimate relationship over another. It is not marital conflict, mutual abuse, a lovers’ quarrel, or a private family matter. It may consist of repeated, severe beatings or more subtle forms of abuse, including threats and control. Domestic Violence can be physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, sometimes the violence is against property or pets.

Often an abuser will isolate the victim from families and friends and often the victim is fearful of saying anything because they fear that will make the abuse worse. Sometimes they come to believe that they actually deserve the abuse because that’s what the abuser tells them. Sometimes they figure that they have to live with the abuse because that’s what they are told the Bible says. Sometimes they stay because of the fear of losing their children. Sometimes victims stay because they have nowhere to go. Sometimes they stay because they are afraid that their partner will kill them or commit suicide themselves or kill or abuse their children. Abusers are good at threats. It often takes a victim 5-7 attempts before they finally leave, if they leave at all.

Abuse can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your gender, your economic status or your faith. I’ve known abused women who came from wealthy families and others who were very poor.

So what can we in the church do? First and foremost is to listen and believe her. Tell her it’s not her fault and it is not God’s will. Tell her that she is not alone and that help is available. Refer her to Family Crisis Counsel or a good counselor. Hold the abuser accountable and support them in seeking batterers counseling to help them change their behavior. Chances are they grew up in a home where abuse was the norm.

On Oct. 31, First United Church of Christ will be hosting a forum on domestic violence. The Western North Carolina Association of the UCC is sponsoring this event where all are welcome to come and learn more about what we all can do to reduce domestic violence here in our community. We have Rev. Sharon Davis and Rev. K. Ray Hill who will be our speakers. Registration and more information can be found by calling the association office at 704-633-3191. This topic is too important for the church to ignore.

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