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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Not in Our Pews

Today's post is by Mompriest, AKA Terri C. Pilarski, who shares about an important conference she attended recently. There are some wonderful resources here...hopefully they will be helpful to you. Her review is on her blog, here, and reproduced in its entirety below.

Last week I attended a workshop called Not In Our Pews intended to train clergy and social service providers on the issue of Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence. Here is a review of that workshop which will be printed later this month in the newsletter for the Episcopal Women's Caucus. The EWC along with two other Episcopal groups are teaming up to sponsor 16 Days of Prayer for Activism Against Domestic Violence, which will take place in Advent.

Not In Our Pews
by The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski, licensed Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Chicago


The first congregation I served as Rector struggled with the reality that a prominent couple in the parish was going through a divorce, the wife a victim of years of domestic abuse. With the pending divorce the abuse escalated, and threatened to spill into the church itself. A few years later my friend and colleague at another church experienced a tragic domestic violence episode in her congregation. Throughout this time I learned that domestic violence was, by far, the primary cause of police intervention in our small but wealthy suburban community.


At a recent conference called, “Not In Our Pews” held in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and sponsored by Project SAFE, an organization comprised of a number of religious institutions and service provider agencies in Wisconsin, I learned more about this all too common tragedy in our society. First, I learned that Domestic Violence, while still used for a variety of policy reasons, is often known as Intimate Partners Violence. This term expands the issue beyond the violence that occurs in some marriages to include a new awareness of violence in teen dating, in GLBT couples, and couples who do not live in the same house. Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence is defined as: a
pattern of abusive behavior in which a person uses coercion, deception, harassment, humiliation, manipulation and/or force in order to establish and maintain power and control over that person’s current or former intimate partner.

The conference goals were to: build partnerships between congregational leaders, service providers, and law enforcement programs; to provide faith and congregational leaders with strategies and resources to effectively and safely meet the needs of victims and families; to equip clergy and lay leaders to assist victims to make thoughtful decisions from a theological perspective while remaining in relationship with God and their faith community; to explore how faith communities might work to end Intimate Partner Violence; to help congregational leaders navigate a congregation that is impacted by Intimate Partner Violence. The keynote speaker was the Rev. Al Miles, an expert in Intimate Partner Violence prevention and treatment, and the author of several books on domestic violence including “Domestic Violence: What Every Pastor Needs to Know” 2nd edition, due for release in February 2011 (Fortress Press).

As clergy and lay leaders of congregations this conference emphasized the need for increased awareness of the prevalence of Intimate Partners Violence, including that which occurs in teen dating and elder abuse. We cannot hide behind a veil pretending that it only happens in certain demographics. The reality is this violence knows no boundaries and impacts equally every demographic across the spectrum from rich to poor, from educated to not, across lines of race and ethnicity, age and gender orientation. Congregations need to reach out to social service agencies that specialize in Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence and work together to raise awareness and form responses to this rampant problem in our midst. 95% of reported cases of Intimate Partner Violence occurs with a man victimizing a woman. As clergy we have a responsibility to become educated and able to discuss Domestic Abuse/Elder Abuse/Teen Dating/Intimate Partner Violence in premarital counseling sessions, outlining what constitutes a healthy relationship, to recognize the warning signs when they appear, and to have an appropriate course of action. A healthy relationship does not include coercion, deception, harassment, humiliation, manipulation and or force in order to establish control and maintain power over a current or former intimate partner.


A few key points on what to do or not to do:

• do not attempt couple counseling when Intimate Partner Violence is a known element of the relationship.

• If a victim speaks up and shares her story, do not judge, do not put words in her mouth, do not encourage her to stay in the relationship, or leave, or use scripture as a means to further victimize her.
• Offer hope, leaving an offender is a process, victims want the violence to end not the relationship.
• Violence is a learned behavior, it is a conscious decision and a willful choice of the perpetrator to get what they want when they want it.

• Intimate Partner Violence is not caused by addiction to drugs or alcohol, stress, children, job stress, psychological illness, pets, Satan, and especially the abuse is not caused by the victim. It is not a problem of anger or control.

• It is a problem of entitlement and a demand to have their way when they want it. • Do not think that you can assist the person alone, reach out for trained help from an appropriate social service agency.
• Provide congregational training on Intimate Partner Violence
• Provide resources that women can find in your church bathrooms that will help them find appropriate help including an emergency shelter for battered women. Likewise provide resources for men who are victims of abuse.

Intimate Partner Violence includes physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, pet or property destruction (if I can’t hurt you I will hurt what you love), and stalking. The tactics include, but are not limited to dictating how victims dress; to whom they can relate or not relate; what they can or cannot say and think; when the victim can or cannot study, worship, or work; describing the victim as disgusting, disrespectful, or using vulgar names like slut, stupid, whore.


When clergy and lay leaders are willing to become informed, educated, and trained, by reaching out and teaming up with social service agencies congregations can create healthier environments. Clergy and lay people are able to bring in the spiritual dimension of hope, grace, and love that social service agencies are often prevented from approaching due to the limits of their practice. By partnering together faith communities and social service agencies can work to create intervention strategies and prevention strategies for healthier communities.


Resources compiled by Safe Havens, interfaith partnership against domestic violence:


Articles and Brochures
Faith Trust Institute: “What Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence” 1994 (206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitue.org. Also, “What You Need to Know if a Child is Being Abused or Neglected”, 1992.

Fortune, Marie, “A Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence,” originally published in Violence in the Family: A Workshop Curriculum for Clergy and Other Helpers. Pp 137-151, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, 1991. Contact Faith Trust Institute: (206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitute.org.


Peace At Home, Inc., “Domestic Violence: The Facts,” 1994-2004. Contact Peace At Home, Inc: 877-546-3737, peaceathome@peaceathome.org.
Safe Havens, “Guidelines for Working with Congregations Facing Domestic Violence.” Contact SafeHavens: 617-645-1820, info@interfaithpartners.org.

Books:
Adams, Carold J. & Fortune, Marie M., Editors, Violence Against Women and Children: A Christian Theological Sourcebook, The Continuum Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1998.

Afkhami, M. Safe and Secure: Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Muslim Societies, Sisterhood Is Global Institute, Bethseda, MD, 1998. Contact Faith Trust Institute 206) 634-1903, www.faithtrustinstitue.org.

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4 comments:

  1. Having been a victim of domestic violence, this is a topic of great import to me! There were two things my then-pastor did absolutely 'right' for me. One, he offered me shelter and said that he could get me there right then. Here, "offered" is key; it was evident that he cared--and equally evident that the choice was completely mine to make.

    The other was this: When our meeting was over, he asked permission before touching me--even before shaking my hand. Even such an innocent and common touch can feel threatening to an abused woman and his awareness of that was a gift.

    Thanks for publishing this.

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  2. For about five years, I worked as an attorney in two non-profits, representing victims of interpersonal violence in court.
    It is so much about re-empowering the victim and getting her (mostly it's her) to a place of safety where she can see the forest for the trees. But empowerment means the victim has her own choices and must make them in her time. Love the story about your pastor, Beth, so important to respect personal boundaries! I hope that the information churches provide includes safety planning: having a bag packed with necessities like originals or copies of birth certificates, social security cards, deeds to property, bank account information, drivers licenses, clothing, sundries and having that bag in a safe place with a friend or neighbor who cares; having a code word with a friend to give them the go-ahead to call the police. Training about leaving SAFELY. What many do not realize is that when the victim leaves, their chance of DYING goes up enormously. (One big answer to the question of "why doesn't she just leave?"-ugh). That's why safe houses and shelters in an unknown location is important. Thank God that churches are getting it:

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  3. Wonderful post! At last at least some clergy are getting it, it seems...

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  4. Thanks for this report Mompriest. It is such an important part of our ministry.

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